Apologies to Chef Anthony Secviar for my plating skills — or lack thereof — on his sublime takeout food from his Protege restaurant in Palo Alto.
Because, yes, it’s possible to enjoy Michelin-starred food to-go in the comfort of your own home.
And getting takeout does offer an alluring plus: the chance to enjoy one of the restaurant’s “family meal of the week” options. I’ve had the pleasure of dining several times pre-pandemic in the lounge of the restaurant, where an a la carte menu is offered. But before, the only way to indulge in a multi-course progressive meal was to book a table in the intimate dining room for the tasting menu.
The “family meal of the week,” however, is a much less expensive variation with typically about four courses or dishes, including dessert. For instance, the one offered last week, which I got, was $75 per person.
It began with shaved Brussels sprouts salad, the crisp julienned leaves tossed with an almost equal amount of grated cheese, as well as pomegranate seeds, walnuts, and crunchy, salty, porky bits of pancetta for a dish that hit every taste bud.
With a 13-foot-long custom grill that dominates the kitchen, downtown Palo Alto’s Rooh serves up contemporary Indian cuisine licked by plenty of flames and smoke.
It also mixes in some very unconventional ingredients in its dishes, such as goat cheese, cheddar cheese, polenta, and Japanese togarashi. But executive chef Sujan Sarkar, who oversees this Palo Alto restaurant along with its sister San Francisco outpost, somehow makes it all work.
To get a feel for what this grill can do, order the roasted eggplant ($14). It’s as smoky tasting as the best baba ganoush, with an equally spoonable texture. The whole slender eggplant is covered in cumin-scented yogurt, pickled onion, cilantro and pomegranate seeds.
Garlic naan ($15) is the perfect vehicle to spread this creamy roasted eggplant on. Or smear it on the pao ($16), pull-apart, fluffy soft rolls that come with a sweet-tangy, chunky heirloom tomato kut.
Founder Becky Sunseri has been obsessed with ice cream since she was a kid, when she’d even hunker down with a bowl of it in winter while sitting atop the heater in her family’s home in Illinois. At 15, she playfully wrote her first ice cream menu, too.
A former pastry cook at Facebook, Sunseri makes a point to use the best local ingredients in her ice creams and sorbets in creative yet highly accessible flavors.
Walk up to the window to order a cone or cup or pint to take home. Or order online ahead of time, then go to the “pick-up” window for speedier service.
Yeasty, buttery, tightly coiled with generous ripples of Nutella throughout, this babka might very well have stolen my heart, not to mention my stomach.
It’s the handiwork of Shuk Shuka, a San Francisco online marketplace and kitchen specializing in Middle Eastern foodstuffs.
“Shuk” means “market” in both Hebrew and Arabic. Founder Inon Tzadok, who grew up in Israel and Yemen wanted to evoke the traditional flavors of Middle Eastern market stalls in his products. His sister, baker Yael Tzadok is responsible for the wonderful baked goods.
What a difference a few months makes. In late February, I was invited in as a guest to try the splashy new Ettan restaurant that had just debuted in downtown Palo Alto. Little did I know that would be the very last time I’d dine inside a restaurant for the foreseeable future.
So it was with a sense of warm familiarity tinged with a bit of melancholy that I returned to this modern Indian restaurant last week to pick up takeout.
The restaurant is a collaboration between Ayesha Thapar, a real estate and fashion entrepreneur, and Srijith Gopinathan, executive chef of the Michelin two-starred Campton Place in San Francisco. So it’s got style in spades, as well as serious cooking chops.
The striking entrance with its indigo doors, iron latticed screens, crystal chandeliers, and fanciful tiles still make a grand statement. And the food is still every bit as impressive, even if you can’t enjoy it on the restaurant’s rough-hewn ceramics and gleaming copper vessels at home.