Behind the Menu | Rooh in the Short North offers patrons reimagined Indian cuisine

Gary Seman Jr.
Special to The Columbus Dispatch
Lamb shank nihari "is our most traditional Indian dish,” Rooh owner Bhavesh Kishinchand said.

Surprises abound in the intriguing culinary world of Rooh, an Indian restaurant that opened 16 months ago in the Short North.

Upon its entry into the local dining scene, Rooh promised to be both Indian at its core and progressive in its style of cooking and use of ingredients.

“I think the most important thing for us is balance,” said Bhavesh Kishinchand, owner of the local Rooh, which also has a locations in San Francisco and Chicago.

In other words, it’s about making Indian cuisine lighter and approachable both for seasoned and uninitiated eaters.

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Sometimes that involves using ingredients that are uncommon — such as tuna — for the Indian style of cooking.

Served chilled, the tuna platter ($15) offers contrasts In flavor and texture — soft tuna and avocado, crunchy puffed black rice and edamame and a chutney made of onion, green mango, apple and chiles, among others.

“It’s really, really fresh and vibrant,” Kishinchand said. “It’s almost our take on ceviche.”

Pork belly with a sweet tamarind barbecue sauce

Another rarity on Indian menus is pork. At Rooh, three thick pieces of pork belly ($18) are glazed with a sweet tamarind barbecue sauce that has candied mango, a topping of chicharrones (pork rinds) and pickled veggies for cut-through the richness.

Wild-caught salmon is pan-fried ($30) and paired with sweet-and-sour pickled mango and a mildly spiced khichdi, which is similar to combination of millet and quinoa atop clams and shrimp.

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Lamb shank nihari ($30) is more traditional, using rose water, mint and chutney of young garlic stems, cilantro, green, onion and lime, and an onion gravy seasoned with of clove, cinnamon and nutmeg.

“I would say the lamb shank is our most traditional Indian dish,” Kishinchand said. “It falls right off of the bone.”

Vegetarians and vegans might want to visit for Rooh’s take on kofta in a spinach sauce, or saag, with fried lotus root ($22). Cooked jackfruit, potatoes and caramelized onions are formed into rounds, coated in panko and fried, and nestled in deep-green fresh spinach sauce.

Jackfruit kofta is nestled in a fresh spinach sauce.

Chicken 65 ($16), another Indian staple, is made with marinated thigh meat that’s breaded and fried, and finished in a pan with a tangy-and-spicy sauce seasoned with freshly grated ginger. It’s garnished with fried curry leaf and plated with a dollop of sour cream to help mitigate the spiciness.

Whatever misconceptions people might have about Indian food — or Rooh’s take on it — they just need to ask, Kishinchand said.

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“Really what it comes down to is we have a phenomenally trained staff," he said, "so if someone comes in looking for that guidance, which happens relatively often…we really train the staff to prepare for that.” 


At a glance

Where: Rooh

Location: 685 N. High St., Short North

Hours: 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays;  closed Sundays and Mondays

Contact: 614-972-8678, www.roohcolumbus.com