Rooh, a Swanky Progressive Indian Restaurant Is Now Open in SoMa

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The glowing cobalt bar area at Rooh. Photo: Sameer Yagnik.

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The dining room, with blue booths separated by gold mesh curtains. Photo: Sameer Yagnik.

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Beetroot Kanji, made with tequila and beetroot spice shrub. Photo: Anthony Thornton.

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Lamb shank nihari with ginger, saffron, cilantro, chile gremolata. Photo: Anthony Thornton.

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The paneer pinweel in red pepper makhani. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

San Francisco’s upscale Indian restaurant scene keeps on ramping up, and the latest addition is ~ROOH~ (which means soul or spirit). It’s the first project in the U.S. from Good Times Restaurant Group (the Bhambri family) in India—they have restaurants and nightclubs in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, and other locations. The chef is Sujan Sarkar, a top-rated chef who has cooked around the world. Sarkar has created a progressive menu that melds regional Indian flavors, modern techniques, and local and seasonal ingredients.

There is a seven-course tasting menu ($80), as well as an à la carte dinner menu that includes some fun bar bites, like chile, pea, and goat cheese-stuffed kulcha; Goan chorizo Scotch egg; and the can’t-miss Kashmiri duck puff. The section of small plates is extensive and intriguing, and at least half of the dishes are vegetarian.

It’s a good thing Sarkar has a big kitchen team from the Good Times’ other Indian restaurants with him here, because there is also an extensive listing of large plates. At a preview meal, we got to taste the elegant paneer pinwheel, such a fun presentation of this classic dish, with a deeply flavorful red pepper makhani, fenugreek, and butter emulsion; the same sauce is used with their tandoori chicken. The tandoori portobello with polenta was a surprise hit at the table. I will admit I thought it sounded too much like a 2002 dish with its truffle oil, but the bite I had made me not care what year it was. Don’t miss the side of black dairy dal—just letting you know. The Indian breads are also fun to try.

The presentations are refined, with many innovative touches and details. Save room for the banana tarte Tatin and tutti-frutti cassata, some of the best Indian-inspired desserts I’ve had.

The creative cocktails are playful, feature many culinary influences, and are based on Ayurveda and its six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent, and bitter. Maybe come before your reservation and hope for a seat at the swanky cobalt blue bar. The Banaras Sour is a good place to start (gin, basil, cucumber, Chartreuse), and the Beetroot Kanji is made with tequila and beetroot spice shrub. The Mustard Old-Fashioned features mustard ghee-washed Four Roses bourbon—it’s wild.

The SoMa location is in the base of the Dropbox building, and they did a lot to build out what was otherwise a rather industrial and characterless shell. The interior has many flashy touches, with bright colors and shimmery chandeliers plus tiled flooring. The dining area features blue booths separated by gold mesh curtains, and there are wicker-backed chairs throughout, although the barstools also have patent cherry red seats and lanterns suspended above.

Open for dinner Mon-Thu 5:30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-10:30pm, with a late-night menu Fri-Sat 10:30pm-12:30am. Happy hour, lunch, and brunch to follow shortly. 333 Brannan St. at 2nd St.