It was some years ago that the name Heston Blumenthal became popular in the country. I recall one Masterchef Australia episode when the chef presented a plate of egg and soldiers to be recreated that I wondered ‘what’s the big deal?’ Only it wasn’t breakfast but a dessert that played tricks on the senses.
Cut to 2019, I was sitting at ROOH one fine nippy evening, enjoying the different courses that came to the table when a big bowl with a lid was put in front of me. Taking the lid off, I stared at what looked like a broken egg. Bits of the shell still remained; the yolk looked firm, waiting for my spoon to cut through and let its glorious runniness out. But, by then, I knew my eyes were being fooled. It had to be something more, because throughout the different courses, every plate that came to the table looked deceiving and yet, the flavours were familiar, sometimes better that what my mind imagined.
ROOH’s journey began in early 2017 when it opened in San Francisco’s Bay Area. Conceptualised by Chef Sujan Sarkar, its Delhi counterpart opened in April this year. Its menu of contemporary Indian food coupled with an ambiance of understated elegance (think clean, minimal and modern) has already made it a firm favourite in the Capital. It’s located in an old haveli in Mehrauli, an area that’s become synonymous with fine-dining in the Capital, with a view of the Qutub Minar.
The concept of ROOH is very simple: Indian flavours reinvented, reinterpreted. Sarkar’s use of various cooking techniques to create different textures and invoke the sense of the familiar is best appreciated in the restaurant’s tasting menu, each course beautifully, and minimally plated. The cocktail menu isn’t far behind, inspired by the rasas to achieve a balance of body, mind and soul with homemade concoctions.
Sarkar’s version of a pani puri looks like a tart with a just-about firm yolk and edible flowers. In my hastiness, much to my horror, plop went the yolk out of the tart as I picked it up. But Samrat Banerjee, director operations, quickly replaced the dish with a smile. I utterly blame my clumsiness that definitely hasn’t improved over time. When I finally popped in the replaced tart, there was an explosion of flavours as I savoured the bite. Not really a pani puri but oh-so-familiar; it set me up perfectly for the evening ahead.
The yoghurt chaat of different textures, a sweet corn version of a liquid bhurji to be wiped clean with a hot pao, a duck shammi with fruit jellies, even the North Indian staple–an aloo paratha (fermented in this case) with a creamy goat curd and spicy pork pickle, that has just the right kick, showcased a range of techniques and flavours. But there were a few misses too—the sea buckthorn rasam was a tad bit much and the chicken roulade, with a lababdar flavour, a tad bit sweet.
The egg bowl followed. I cut into the yolk and it oozed. A bite, of course, proved otherwise—mango and coconut, perfectly balanced in texture and taste; a dessert I would readily come back for. The ras malai that came after was all goodness with the lightness of air. Ending the meal with an airy biscuit and a tiny spoon of blackberry kala khatta left me satiated.
ROOH’s charm and certainty with flavours makes it interestingly refreshing in a city where new restaurants are popping up every day. And with a new winter menu out, it’s all the more reason to go back to see what surprises are in store these coming months.
ROOH, Ambawatta One Complex, H-5/1, Kalkadas Marg, Mehrauli, New Delhi; +91-7303600299; Tuesday to Sunday, from 12.30pm to 3pm, 6.30pm to midnight; INR 6,000 for two; roohnewdelhi.com