I don’t fall in love all that easily, and I tend to be fickle. But there are certain traits I find irresistible. Looks are important, but they are not everything. I like to be surprised, and playfulness is a plus. Good taste is a must.
I found true love recently. The object of my affection nourishes me in every way, and makes me feel special. And now, I am compelled to profess my feelings in a public forum.
Rose’s Luxury…I’m talking about you. And it’s okay…my husband knows how I feel.
There has been a great deal of hype about Rose’s Luxury since it opened on Capitol Hill a little less than two months ago. I feel like I am in love with the most popular person in school. If i want a date, particularly on a Saturday night, I’m going to have to work for it.
I find the no-reservations policy at Rose’s Luxury initially off-putting, since getting to Capitol Hill is a shlep. But it’s not a deal-breaker. However, knowing that my husband and the friends we are dining with are not going to stand for a long wait, we arrive at 5:20 on a Saturday night. There are about a dozen people in front of us. I am not thrilled to be dining so early, but as the night progresses and customers begin to pour in, the decision proves to be a good one. By 7:00 pm there is a two hour wait for a table.
From the moment we are seated, we are determined to savor the experience by taking it nice and slow. I soak in the atmosphere. When it comes to looks Rose”s Luxury has it going on, but in an easy, not trying too hard kind of way. I’m attracted to the white exposed brick, the open kitchen, and the homey, eclectic feel.
Rose’s Luxury shines in the personality department. Daniel, our server and a self-described food geek, possesses an unbridled enthusiasm for his place of employment that’s infectious. He’s describing ingredients at a brisk pace, and we actually can’t keep up with everything he is saying. But I don’t need to retain every word, and I find his knowledge and respect for his employer endearing. When he says that the popcorn soup with grilled lobster is so much fun that it’s kind of like “Orville Redenbacher meets Dr. Suess,” I am sold. Smoked brisket with white bread, horseradish, and slaw is described as “Eastern European meets Texas.” Sold again.
Then there’s Elizabeth, another server, who expresses her passion for the restaurant on Twitter. I can’t help but seek her out, and she checks in throughout the night to see how we’re faring. Staff are frequently checking in with diners, fulfilling Chef/Owner Aaron Silverman’s desire for the restaurant to be hospitable and fun.
Chef Silverman has impressive cooking credentials, having worked for award-winners such as New York’s David Chang and Marco Canora, and Charleston’s Sean Brock. Perhaps this is why the menu reflects an eclectic mix of Asian meets Italian, meets Southern, meets Jewish.
When it comes down to it Rose’s Luxury is receiving rave reviews because the dishes are exciting, and just plain delicious. Just as we are tiring of small plates, Rose’s Luxury does it again. But somehow it’s okay. Besides, there are two offerings on the menu that are served family style.
First up is a complimentary loaf of warm and wonderful potato bread, dusted with potato skin crumbs and chives. It’s served on a plate that looks almost exactly like my mother-in-law’s china. This is a restaurant that’s consciously trying to make customers feel at home, and they can’t do much better than that!
Vietnamese pâté with herbs and garlic bread is like a deconstructed banh mi. It also reminds me of my grandmother’s chopped liver and our recent trip to France, all in the same bite. Good memories are being stirred up all over the place, and the night has just begun.
My husband and one of our friends doesn’t eat meat, so they have joined forces to order nearly everything they possibly can on the menu. This gives them tastes of six different dishes. They are happy with the variety, but comment on the lack of a fish option.
Burnt romaine with avocado poblano and cotija cheese is their first dish, and I can’t resist taking a bite of this and every one of their dishes that follows. I want what they’re having every time, but not instead of my dishes…in addition to them.
Popcorn soup with lobster is creamy and buttery, and fantastic. My friend and I split a portion, and it’s an adequate serving to share. A touch more lobster would have made us love it even more.
A sausage, habanero, and lychee salad is available with vegetarian sausage. It’s packed with flavor, and I can’t imagine it tasting any better with the intended pork . This is the first of many dishes that has us uttering “OMG.” This will continue at a rapid pace as the meal progresses.
There are three pasta dishes on the menu, all vegetarian. We declare the fennel-stuffed gnocchi with toasted breadcrumbs the best dish of the night. Until we meet the strawberry pasta with ricotta and black pepper. I go absolutely nuts over this dish. I love the little bits of onion and the back of the mouth burn from the pepper. The flavors are so surprisingly luxurious that I think this should be the restaurant’s signature dish. I am tempted to order another portion, it’s that good. I regret my effort to exercise restraint.
Cacio e pepe, is a classic pasta with olive oil and pecorino cheese. It’s the simplest of the three pastas, but charming nonetheless.
There are only two of us sharing the family style smoked brisket, which is clearly meant for more people with larger appetites. The horseradish has just the right amount of burn, and the tangy slaw brings it all together. The scent of the smoke permeates to the other side of the table, and it’s the non-meat eaters turn for dish envy.
They console themselves with caramelized cauliflower with Greek yogurt, and it only takes them a bite before they get over their FOMO (fear of missing out).
As we continue our meal we are causing a bit of a scene. Each time someone comes to remove a plate from the table we shoo them away, sometimes vociferously. To the naked eye it appears that we’re done with a dish. However, as long as there is a molecule of food left, we are determined to enjoy it. Ultimately, we ask for more bread to soak up the errant bits.
I am not as enamored by dessert as I am by the rest of the meal. Vanilla ice cream with grilled olive oil cake and sea salt is texturally interesting. I like the first bite, but somehow I can’t bring myself to go back into the pool of olive oil for more.
I enjoy the lighter dessert of poached seckel pear with smoked mascarpone and honey. I may be expressing a more enthusiastic sentiment, however, had we sampled the more intriguing and decadent-sounding foie gras french toast with cinnamon toast ice cream. Next time?
At this point, nothing can take the bloom off the rose. I am swooning over the entire experience. Now I am longing for a second date, and hoping that the popularity of Rose’s Luxury doesn’t make this difficult. Because in the end, what I am really looking for from Rose’s is a long-lasting relationship.
Rose’s Luxury, 717 8th Street, SE, Washington, DC
City Paper review by Jessica Sidman
Washington Post review by Tom Sietsema
Update: An anniversary dinner in March 2014 has me just as enthusiastic as ever about Rose’s. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the desserts the first time around, and skipped dessert the second, my third visit has me enthralled with sourdough donuts with apple cider, vanilla ice cream and cheddar cheese. I’m told it won’t be on the menu much longer, so catch it if you can.