The former general manager of Arka in Sunnyvale and operations manager at Sakoon in Mountain View, Agnel explains that he wanted to attract diners not only craving modern Indian cuisine, but ones who desired an elegant, upscale experience overall — no matter the food’s provenance.
To that end, he hired Mumbai-born Chef Prakash Singh to take regional Indian specialties and make them his own. Agnel also designed the extensive beverage program that includes the Peg Gastropub Bar inside the restaurant that sports a revolving 12 microbrewery selections on tap. A daily Happy Hour, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., features specially priced beers and cocktails.
The bar also boasts a sizeable selection of Japanese whiskies, tequila, and mezcal, not to mention a wine list that includes a 2018 Joseph Phelps Insignia for $450 and a 2018 Hundred Acre Napa Cabernet Sauvignon for $650 for big spenders.
When Rooh opened in downtown Palo Alto in January 2020, it announced itself with live-fire, modern Indian fare in splashy surroundings. Thankfully, it not only survived the global calamity that hit a mere two months later, but continues to take Indian cuisine to new heights now.
It even added a parklet for outdoor dining. That’s where I dined recently when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant on a chilly weeknight. With plenty of heaters, though, as well as thoughtful floral decorations, the parklet was plenty comfortable. Even on a Wednesday, it was filled with diners, as was the dining room.
Husband and wife, Vikram and Anu Bhambri, who got their start in the tech industry, opened their first Rooh in San Francisco in 2016. It, too, is still going strong, along with locations in Columbus, OH, and New Delhi.
Executive Chef Sujan Sarkar oversees all the Rooh locations (except the Chicago one), with Chef Apurva Panchal in charge of the Palo Alto locale.
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.
When husband and wife, Vikram Bhambri, a Dell vice president, and Anu Bhambri, a former Microsoft senior software engineer, moved to San Jose from Seattle, they scoured the Peninsula for nine months, searching for a location to open their first Bay Area restaurant.
But the perfect locale actually turned out to be in San Francisco, which is where the couple, who also has restaurants in India, opened the modern-Indian Rooh in 2016. That was followed in quick succession by Rooh locations in Chicago and Columbus.
Now, finally in 2020, the Bhambri’s original dream has come true with the opening of Rooh Palo Alto — in a big way.
It is the first of their restaurants to focus on live-fire cooking. In fact, it boasts a 13-foot-long custom grill, smoker and rotisserie. The Bhambris believe it’s the first apparatus in an Indian restaurant in the world. It can be admired behind glass from the dining room, as chickens rotate over the fire and whole pineapples hang overhead, turning soft and caramelized.