We’ve got two new Indian places ( and actually new, not some other town’s retreads ) in the last months, Rooh and Ettan.
Rooh is in the “cursed space” inhabited by many other Italian restaurants. The longest period was Coppola, but there were several other names, I think the last was Belle Arte. We’d stop by sometimes, often if there was a game on - it wasn’t a sports bar by any means, but always was convivial.
Rooh is a redo of the space, notably adding a large open hearth, and thus adding a substantial new capability to the kitchen. Sure, we think of the Tandoor, and maybe we think of skewers, but when you add in substantial roasted vegitables, the food starts getting interesting.
The food has the boldness of strong indian food - in the same way I would consider local favorite Zareen’s. While Zareen is closer to more standard northern indian dishes, the long lines are based on the fact that every dish has a zing to it. Rooh has some similarities, in that dishes just spring off the plate. Cocktails are also punchy and different.
The night we went ( only one visit so far ), we sat at the bar, and at least half of the patrons were indian-heritage. I’m not saying “it must be a good restaurant because there were indians”, but more that the local palo alto / los altos / atherton habituees includes a lot of wealthy indians who can appreciate trends in modern indian food, which I think accounts for the bolder tastes.
Ettan had its first opening weekend in the old Three Seasons space (closed due to fire for two years). We had always liked Three Seasons, so when we exited the Kurasawa flick at the Stanford, I proposed heading over. Rather officiously, and with a nearly empty restaurant, they said they wouldn’t serve us any food, but would serve us drinks. They stated they were in “reservations only” mode because they were working the kinks out, which I can appreciate. There’s a rather scathing review on Yelp from someone who felt much more offended, that wasn’t me.
Thus I can only review the atmosphere, the drinks, and the smell of the food.
The place is decidedly more high end than any other place I can think of in Palo Alto ( ok, I haven’t been to the fancy Korean tasting menu place, and don’t hang out at Nobu, and Madera is in Menlo Park ). The revamp was a HUGE revamp, removing the rather excellent very old bar ( I bet those things sell for a lot when they are authentically old! ), additional modern art, custom wallpaper, and moving the bar from the back to one side. Once spring hits and one can sit outside in that pleasant courtyard, I’m sure the place will be mobbed, simply because the atmosphere is so good - but they’ve also created a Temple To Food atmosphere that’s a bit stuffier than I actually like. That is, I’ll suffer through it if the food is good.
My original impression - which I hope is wrong when I taste the food instead of just smelling it - is not favorable. The drinks, for example, seem mostly california-inflected than indian. The naan looked more like ordinary nan. The menu had lots of Interesting Bits but after seeing the menu at Rooh - it really seems more mostly-californian-slightly-indian rather than the 29th State Of India vibe I got at Rooh.
If I was to cast aspersions, it seemed like a very LA restaurant, in not-a-good way. I love eating in LA, but there’s that certain kind of see-and-be-seen place with only moderately good food that I’d call the curse of LA ( balanced out by a massive number of punchy and interesting local eateries ). But is my inner snob-of-snobs showing? It looked bougie and instagrammy, so the food must not have been good? I hope I’m not getting that way.
The cocktails were pretty good. The bartender was from Milan, I think he said he came in from New York, and said that “indian isn’t his first favorite in types of food” and “it’s been interesting trying to pair with these tastes”, and perhaps that threw me a little. He also used exactly the same phrase as in the Palo Alto Online article about “we’re not focused on getting a michelin star”, which is a particularly manipulative way of talking about it without talking about it, eh?
I’ll finish up by saying anyone who hasn’t been to the phenominal Zareen’s, now in their larger Cali Ave - Palo Alto location better come around 11am or about 2pm, that’s when there’s minimal line. The local office workers ( me included ) love it. The prices are terribly high for what you get, but the portions are small in a good way ( just right for lunch ), and the flavor is huge. If it wasn’t crowded I would eat several meals a week there.
Look forward to any other comments — it’s interesting to have two restaurants in the same genre opening within such a short period.
( And, my most looked-for opening will be the new cocktail place that’s part of Zola. I happened to get a ride with a Lyft driver who is part of Zola, and it sounds like it could be good. )