The Rooh Journey (Part 1)

Last week, we did an in-depth dissection of one of the dishes from the tasting menu of Rooh in Mehrauli (check it out here). In this week and the next, we will explore the tasting menu as a whole. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a tasting menu, you might want to check out one of my previous articles on types of restaurant menus.

The ambience at Rooh is magical indeed. Seated in a room with yellow lighting in old-school wickerwork chairs with a clear view of the Qutub Minar from the window and Indian classical music playing in the background, it evoked the charm of the days of yore.

The tasting menu is a journey comprising 14 courses, perfectly sequenced and judiciously portioned taking us on a trip around India through the lens of modern gastronomy. Not all dishes were perfect, but most of them were mind-blowing and some were, dare I say, life changing. It is hard to distil incoherent emotion into a concrete review, but here goes.

An amuse bouche is a one-bite wonder, served at the start of a meal. It translates to “mouth amuser”, and the dishes that started our meal at Rooh justify the flattering nomenclature.

The meal was off to a weak start with a dish called Amla : Senses. It was basically a wedge of amla or Indian gooseberry cooked till soft and served with two dollops of wood apple jam (that’s bel for you fellow Bongs). Although it looked dainty and cute, it was just slightly tart, giving our palates a subtle nudge. However, there wasn’t anything spectacular to blow us away. The subsequent dishes, however, made up for the bumpy start.

Amla : Senses

The next dish was titled Passion : Explosion. It was their take on a pani puri, with spherified passionfruit (more about spherification here) served in a tart shell with a sprinkling of chaat masala on top. When we popped it into our mouth, the name made perfect sense.

The fruity orb burst in our mouths, with the combination of the sweet and tart from the fruit, the salt from the chaat masala. The stiff crunch of the tart shell made it reminiscent of a phuchka, although I wished the shell was a bit less brittle. But I guess I’m nitpicking; it was an amazing dish.

Passion : Explosion

The next dish, simply called Bheja Pâté : Gougère, had a less romantic description. A gougère is basically the savoury version of a cream puff or profiterole, made using a choux pastry. The batter of a gougère, unlike a profiterole, has no sugar and is reinforced with cheese, and its innards are stuffed with a savoury filling instead of cream.

In our case, the filling was a pâté made with mutton brain, and topped with delicate strands of parmesan. The shell was soft and ever so slightly crisp on the outside, and the filling inside was intense. It was smooth and incredibly meaty, and the flavours lingered on the palate long after the dish was over.

Bheja Pâté : Gougère

Then started the series of small plates; tiny portions of food that packed a ginormous punch. The first dish was a play on an aloo chaat, called Yoghurt : Textures. The base of the dish was a thick, generous dollop of spiced yoghurt, the kind you find in a chaat, and tiny nuggets of yoghurt made by dipping it in liquid nitrogen and shattering it into smithereens.

The yoghurt was garnished with three sauces : tamarind, chilli-strawberry and carambola or starfruit. Finally, it was topped off with crisp potato juliennes or aloo ke lachchhe, and finished sprinkling of togarashi or a Japanese 7-spice blend.

It is unbelievable how a dish with such a modest appearance can taste so magnificent. Beneath its layers of white lay a rainbow of flavours. The trio of sauces were upfront and punchy, the yoghurt took us straight back to the roadside chaat stalls, and the crisp potato provided a crunchy accent to it all.

Yoghurt : Textures

The next dish took us straight from Chandni Chowk to Chowpatty, with their quirky take on the pav bhaji. Called Sweet corn : Liquid bhurji, the base of the dish was a sweet corn mousse, topped with crispy quinoa and a peanut thecha, which is a kind of spicy condiment commonly used in Maharashtra, heady with the flavour of chillies and garlic. It was bordered with a green moat of curry leaf oil, and served with a piece of bread (the pao).

The sweet corn mousse was subtle and incredibly light, with the occasional squishy bite of corn kernels. The quinoa added pops of texture, and the peanut thecha added a very subtle note of spice, while still allowing the sweet corn to shine. The curry leaf oil was bang on flavour-wise and, mixed with the mousse, added an additional note to this simple and beautiful dish. The pao was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, as it should be.

Sweet corn : Liquid bhurji

If the “chaat” was a flavour bomb, the “pav bhaji” was an exercise in minimalism, something to calm the palate down with its soothing creaminess. The next dish did the same. Simply called Melon: Rose, it comprised thin slices of cucumber and melon daintily arranged into an edible rose, topped with tobiko or flying fish roe. It was served with a rasam made of sundried tomato and sea buckthorn.

The rasam, cold and tart and delicately spiced, with the cool bite of the veggies and the occasional subtle pop of the roe was incredibly soothing. I’ve never had rasam before and have nothing to compare it to, but this is what rasam tastes like, then bring it on.  Chicken soup, you’ve got competition.

Melon : Rose

After our palates sufficiently cooled down, came my most favourite dish of the menu; a modern take on the rustic North Indian breakfast of aloo parantha, dahi and achaar, taking each of the three components of the simple meal and elevating them to gourmet status. We’ve talked about it at length in a previous article, so let’s move on.

Potato : Fermented Paratha

Course eight was a shami kabab of duck topped with a thin disc of activated charcoal biscuit, served with a trio of sauces and tiny cylinders of compressed fruit. This was the most intricately plated dish, and really epitomizes the phrase “edible art”.

The shami was melt-in-the-mouth, and the carambola, chilli-strawberry and spiced apricot sauces added just the right zing to cut through the richness, with the fruit adding a palate cleansing bite.

Duck : Shami

Although two of the sauces were a repeat from the chaat course, they played a very different role in this dish. Having the same component for two different dishes is practical, as it makes mise en place more efficient. This use of sauces is a particularly clever way of tying the courses together, using the same elements to evoke the essence of the streets of both Delhi and Lucknow.

After those two intense dishes, our palates needed some rest, and that is exactly what we got with the next course, the guava and chilli sorbet. Perfectly smooth and creamy, it was just the kind of refreshing respite we needed after those two amazing dishes.

Guava : Chilli

With our palates cleansed, we were ready for Round 2. Check out Part 2 for the rest of the Rooh Journey.

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