It’s not what you’d expect. That’s exactly the point, and that’s exactly what creates a line out the door for people wanting to come in.
ROOH, Progressive Indian, in San Francisco serves rich, Indian-style cuisine. The restaurant molds together traditional dishes and cooking techniques, oftentimes held deep within the hearts of mothers in the kitchen teaching their children, with unique and colorful California-grown ingredients to present innovatively decadent plates.
Steering away from the normal mom-and-pop concept, which many think of with home-style cooking, owners Anu and Vikram Bhambri provide the city with an upscale, modern experience for those wanting to go out, giving restaurant-goers an opportunity to still enjoy dishes, sauces and spices they love, but with myriad unique combinations and options.
The Bhambris are very intentional behind opening their restaurants in the Bay Area.
The couple, tech wizards-turned-restaurant entrepreneurs, started ROOH’s first location in San Francisco in 2017, followed by ROOH Palo Alto in 2020. They wanted to set the tone to their food empire in cities with innovative and creative communities. They said they knew if they could survive in San Francisco, they could survive anywhere. ROOH is greatly surpassing surviving; it is thriving in the city as evident by the humming of families, first dates and friends dining in, and waiting in line for a chance at a seat inside of the upscale space on a Saturday night.
The revolutionary chef behind the menu’s creations? Pujan Sarkar, chef de cuisine, the same man who – while operating and running a full kitchen staff on a busy night – will be walking the restaurant, mingling with customers, making sure all get a chance to learn about the meals they’ve ordered, or making sure they can hear from chef himself which dishes he recommends for their taste.
To put it simply, Chef Sarkar loves food and all of the creativity and freedom that comes with food, and he has since an early age. Born and raised in Eastern India, he traveled via cruise ship learning from renowned chefs around the world. That cultured experience is something you can taste, as he uses cooking influences from his experience in each Indian-style dish.
It’s obvious that Chef Sarkar likes to have fun with his work and encourages his staff to do the same. As each dish is brought out, one can tell Chef’s love for fresh produce, and that he looks at each freshly grown ingredient as a color on an easel of his food painting masterpiece.
When it comes to the menu, always expect dishes and ingredients to be changing as Chef uses fresh in-season ingredients to lead his cooking creativity not just season by season, but possibly week by week and day by day.
To start, the Pani Puri is a classic choice but with a passionfruit water twist. The nitro yogurt Chat comes highly recommended, not just for its rich flavors, but for the way the yogurt is made frozen by nitrogen, adding a contrast to the warm savory and crispy potatoes it’s laid upon in the bowl.
As for the main courses, the green pea and goat cheese Kulcha richly made with burgundy truffle is divine. Without a doubt, each restaurant-goer needs to order the Tandoori octopus. It’s made with uni malai curry which accentuates the tenderly cooked meat in each bite.
On the heavier and heartier side, the Paneer pinwheel is made with tomato jam and makhani sauce, so flavorful that it could be a second entrée separate from the pinwheel itself. The traditional butter chicken, clearly a staple in every Indian food restaurant, is not different in it’s popularity at ROOH, but different in it’s creative ingredients with red pepper makhani, cashews, micro cilantro and fenugreek. A notable dish that is for the seafood lovers, the Tandoori monkfish and lobster. It’s made with alleeppy curry, clams and shrimp and is quite clearly a result of Chef Pujan’s creativity.
Though starters and main courses are what bring people through the door, Chef says his favorite things to make are desserts. That statement alone should be enough for one to make room for at least one of the options after dinner. The toasted rice tres leches made with pistachio milk and caramelized buttermilk exemplifies Chef’s love for travel and using classic dishes and influences from around the world into his menu as well. The Elaneer Payasam, tender coconut, is for anyone wanting something light and refreshing to end their evening.
Unique to ROOH, the craft cocktail bar is filled with hundreds of crafted cocktail options – something you won’t find in most Indian food restaurants. The Bhambris and Chef Sarkar mention how cocktail art and mixology are not commonly practiced in India – in regard to drinks – the country is just barely starting to develop a wine scene only. They all mention how the skilled bar staff bring to life revolutionary drink ideas helping continue the theme of modernizing Indian culture in the states and in cosmopolitan atmospheres.
Though the details within the restaurant are exquisite – The Bhambris said they want to keep it simple – their goal is the model and change the perception of Indian food one person, one meal and one day at a time.
For more information on ROOH, Progressive Indian, San Francisco, visit ROOHRestaurants.com.