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By Elena Kadvany

Nationally renowned Indian restaurant expanding to Palo Alto

Uploaded: Jun 11, 2019

Anu and Vikram Bhambri operate modern Indian restaurants in San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, New Delhi -- and come this fall, downtown Palo Alto.

They're opening a new restaurant at 473 University Ave. The space was last occupied by Arte Ristorante, which closed temporarily last January and never reopened.

The Bhambris, originally from Delhi, started their careers in the tech industry. Both worked at Microsoft in Seattle. Anu said she was always dissatisfied with the Indian dining scene in the United States, which felt unrepresentative of the full breadth and depth of the cuisine.

"Most of the restaurants in the U.S. were doing heavy curries. That is not what Indian cuisine is about," she said. "We want to change the perception of Indian food."

Short ribs curry with baby turnip and bone marrow at the upscale Rooh in San Francisco, which the Bhambris opened in 2016. Photo by Kelly Puleio.

She eventually quit her Microsoft engineering job to start their restaurant group, Good Times Restaurants. They first opened restaurants in India and then expanded to the U.S. in partnership with executive chef Sujan Sarkar.

After moving to the Bay Area five years ago, the Bhambris spent time in Palo Alto and initially wanted to open a restaurant there, Anu said. They decided to start instead in San Francisco. ("Everyone said, 'If you're successful in San Francisco, you can be successful anywhere,'" she said.)

They opened Rooh in San Francisco in 2016, then Baar Baar in New York City the following year. They added another Rooh in Chicago just last month.

Anu said their restaurants use modern cooking techniques to pay homage to traditional Indian flavors from a many different regions. They also pay attention to presentation, ambiance and cocktails in a way that traditional Indian restaurants typically don't, she said.

Baar Baar New York City, for example, serves avocado-garlic raita and small plates like heirloom tomato kut with burrata, taftan bread and cilantro and walnut chutney; and tandoori octopus millet pongal (a rice dish) and peanut chutney. Thali platters come with jackfruit patties, avocado achar and ricotta-stuffed shishito peppers. Cocktails draw on Indian ingredients, such as saffron and a masala-infused Aperol.

The Palo Alto restaurant, also named Rooh, will be a casual, tapas-style restaurant but with its own distinct focus on Indian-style kebabs, Anu said. Her favorite is the galouti kebab, patties made with different kinds of meat and spices that "melt in your mouth," she said.

They're aiming to open in Palo Alto this fall.

Editor's note: This story was updated on June 24, 2019, to reflect a name change for the restaurant.