Progressive Indian Cuisine at Rooh, San Francisco

Tandoori Octopus with Brioche
Since its opening in 2017 in San Francisco, Rooh has been integrating Indian cooking techniques with a progressive, contemporary style using Californian produce. During this challenging time, Rooh has expanded its outdoor seating capacity with each table nearby a patio heater to provide warmth to diners during those chilly San Francisco evenings. It has also recently re-opened its indoor seating with limited capacity.

My sister, pastry chef Eloise Lim, and I were welcomed by Chef de Cuisine, Pujan Sarkar. After a friendly chat with the chef and our server on what we'd like to drink and our food preferences, we were in for a delightful dining experience. 

A Colorful Feast
Not only does the use of edible flowers, saffron, pickled radish and vegetables, and microgreens gives a good first impression, but also the use of different spices and fresh ingredients certainly elevate the flavors on all their dishes from start to finish. 

Up first is the dahi puri, a melt-in-your-mouth amuse-bouche that is sprinkled with bright, raspberry powder. Made with semolina flour, the surprisingly flavorful chutney inside provides a burst-in-your-mouth moment while the light sweetness of the creamy yogurt left a sweet note to open up our palate. 
Dahi Puri
What we didn't expect next was the generous amount of truffle shavings and butter powder on the stuffed bread with green peas and goat cheese called kulcha. The various ingredients can get overwhelming at first, but this kulcha, which is full of savory flavors, is one of the best breads I've ever had. The good thing is that it came in a mini pancake size, so that I could still devour the remaining dishes.    
stuffed bread
Kulcha Stuffed Bread
Then, we're off to the Mexican-inspired masala jackfruit taco with slices of mango. The pieces of avocado (not seen in the picture below) goes very well with the seasoned jackfruit.
Jackfruit Taco
I can never leave an Indian restaurant if I don't get my hands on deep-fried cauliflower. Having experimented on my own recipe at home in an air fryer, I know that getting the cauliflower floret to its crispy state is a challenge for a novice cook. I'm very glad to discover that Rooh offers the cauliflower koliwada, which is battered cauliflower florets fried to crispy perfection served with tamarind sauce and peanut chutney. 
Cauliflower Koliwada
From the popular crispy cauliflower to the uncommon octopus at Indian restaurants, the tandoori octopus at Rooh is a sure-fire hit for seafood lovers. Plated on bright yellow malai coconut curry, the pieces of octopus, which were as tender as eating fish balls, brought a big smile to our faces (and our bellies). It also came with brioche bread with two types of sauce: garlic tomato with heirloom tomatoes and artichoke, another ingredient uncommon to Indian cuisine. 
Tandoori Octopus
As the sun started to set, the wait staff was gracious enough to turn on the patio heater right beside our table. We continued our food journey with more vegetarian dishes, such as the vegetable and fava dumpling on spinach gravy, and the paneer pinwheel in red pepper makhani, which means 'butter'. Both of which are paired with garlic naan and rice. 

The use of a little bit of saffron can go a long way and is evident on the paneer and rice. The basmati rice with saffron has a subtle yet distinct flavor and aroma. I was tempted to eat the entire bowl of rice but had to stop myself knowing that dessert is around the corner. 

Vegetable and Fava Dumplings, Paneer Pinwheel with Saffron Rice and  Garlic Naan
Simplicity at its Best 
Our experience at Rooh ended with two simple desserts yet at a very high note. Rooh's pastry chef carefully explained to us how the decadent chocolate dessert topped with mawa burfi butter biscuit took 9 hours to make. While the other dessert, rasmalai with mango peach granitas and milk ice cream,  may not be the most Instagram-worthy shot of them all, this simple-plated dessert is actually a favorite of the table with its different textures in play-- crunchy granitas, smooth milk ice cream, and the chewy curd-like rasmalai.
chocolate dessert
Chocolate Dessert
Rasmalai Dessert (Left)
Art in Cocktails 
Rooh's artistic craft also permeates in their cocktail program inspired by the six Ayurvedic rasas, which means 'taste'. Utilizing a blend of Indian ingredients, spices, fresh shrubs made in-house, and artisanal spirits, the results are unique cocktails that tickle the sweet, salty, bitter tastes, and anything in between. The strawberry chai negroni tasted as sexy as it looks, while the bartender surprised me with a gin-based cocktail with pomegranate, egg whites, and mint powder that added a refreshing kick to every sip. We also had a sneak peek of their carrot tarragon cocktail that can easily be mistaken for a glass of fresh carrot juice. 
Strawberry Chai Negroni and a Gin-based Cocktail
Rooh Cocktail
Carrot Tarragon Cocktail
The ever-changing dinner and cocktail menu makes every visit at Rooh fresh and exciting. Between October 23rd and November 1st, Rooh's locations in San Francisco and Palo Alto, which opened earlier this year with live-fire cooking, are participating in San Francisco Restaurant Week, a 10-day celebration of world-class dining, culture, and community in the SF Bay Area. 

Disclaimer: We were provided a complimentary dining experience in exchange for an honest review.

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