How you present yourself is important, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t back it up. After all, no one’s ever gotten hired just because of a monogrammed tie clip. That’s why we like Rooh, an upscale multi-level Indian restaurant in the West Loop. Like most spots in this neighborhood, you’ll come here and see plenty of tourists with luggage, giant velvet booths, and pretty dishes with colorful swirls and mousses. But at Rooh, the food actually tastes as good as it looks.
The prices here are typical for the neighborhood (small plates are around $15, and entrees range from $24 to $36), but even still you’ll notice a lot of extra touches – from a diagrammed cocktail menu to elaborate dishes with sauces poured tableside. And while the food might be attractive, more importantly, we like eating it. For example, a sweet and tangy potato tikki (mashed potato patties) – with crispy kale, yogurt mousse, and tart raspberry sauce – has more texture and brightly colored layers than a mannequin’s clothes at Uniqlo. The flaky whole sea bass is literally served on a silver platter, but it’s the rich mustard cream sauce that stands out. Even the savory keema (ground lamb and peas) is topped with a fluffy potato toupee.
Not everything lives up to its appearance though. The paneer chili roll (cheese wrapped in pastry) looks like an hors d’oeuvre served at a Meghan Markle’s second wedding, but it’s bland and dry. And the tuna bhel (raw tuna, avocado, tamarind, and multi-colored puffed rice) is too salty to eat more than a couple of bites.
Rooh isn’t just relying on appearance to make an impression. There’s utility to this restaurant – the downstairs is loud and busy enough for a date where you’ve run out of interesting things to say, but the upstairs is quiet and spacious enough if you want to have a private conversation over dinner. And even without an elaborate cocktail menu or chicken served in fancy fondue pots, we’d still want to eat here. In an area that has about 67,835 pricey spots to choose from, knowing a useful one matters.
Duck & Apricot Kulcha
There are two stuffed kulcha (a flatbread) on the menu, and we like them equally. This one has shredded duck and a sweet apricot drizzle, and the other is filled with peas and topped with goat cheese and shaved truffle.
The potato tikki is one of our favorite things because of how well it balances completely different textures and flavors. Crispy kale, soft potatoes, creamy yogurt mousse, and sweet raspberry all come together to make an excellent small plate.
This bowl of raw tuna, mango, avocado, tamarind, and puffed rice would be great if it weren’t too salty. The vegetarian counterpart to this dish (an avocado and edamame papdi chat) has the same problem.
Paneer Chili Roll
In theory, a pastry-wrapped cheese can never go wrong, but this small plate is bland and unexciting. Skip it.
Lamb Keema Hyderabadi
The keema comes topped with a light potato mousse that’s a fun contrast to the ground lamb and peas.
Nothing on the menu is very spicy, with the exception of these great little peanutty chicken nuggets. If you don’t eat chicken, the cauliflower koliwada has the same flavor – but we prefer the texture of these.
Chicken Malai Tikka
This is often served on a skewer, but here the meat is in a clay pot filled with cheesy fondue. The chicken is crispy, the sauce is creamy, and you’ll want an order of naan to go with it.
The kofta are perfectly crispy on the outside and come in a creamy spinach sauce, and the jackfruit has a better consistency than whatever lab-grown meat substitute is currently being used by Burger King.
Whole Sea Bass
A great flaky whole fish that comes in a delicious, rich mustard cream sauce. Because it’s deboned you can stick your face in the dish and not worry about poking out your eye.