Who would have thought that trying to get a party of 5 into Bon Appetit's Best New Restaurant 2014, which takes no reservations, at 6 pm on a Friday would be difficult? We knew we'd have to be there early for any chance at all. Three of us arrived around 5:30 and were told that we wouldn't be seated until our other two guests arrived. We were also told that there were two other parties waiting for the same table, meaning whoever's party was complete first would get the table. THE RACE WAS ON.
The rest of our party was stuck in the DC Metro, delayed, so we made our way to the upstairs bar at Rose's and waited for the news. It was like sitting in the waiting room at the hospital's ER. The prognosis was not good. Train delay after train delay. Then the call came. "WE ARE ALMOST THERE!"
Incredibly, we were the first full party, so we got the table, which was at the far back of the restaurant. The whole place has an eclectic but homey vibe, and the back portion almost makes you feel like you're sitting outside with its high ceilings, skylights and strung up lights.
I got some kind of tequila cocktail that came in this trippy mushroom glass. The drink was good, but I cannot remember what was in it aside from some jalapeño.
Biscuits. Hot, delicious, buttermilk biscuits. That caviar looking stuff to the side? That's butter topped with burnt onion powder. It didn't taste burnt or even really like onion, but it was delicious spread on these biscuits. All restaurants should consider replacing their white bread with these. Look, the recipe is even online!
Rose's dishes are, for the most part, small. If you're in a big group, you'll be able to order nearly everything on the menu and still have room for dessert. Our first dish was the [symple_highlight color="blue"]bigeye tuna[/symple_highlight] with freshly grated Matsumoto wasabi. Matsumoto, a city Northwest of Tokyo by a few hours, is famous for it's large wasabi farms, so we were getting the real stuff; no green tinted horseradish at Rose's. This was more of a product feature than a cooking display, but when you have these high caliber ingredients, let 'em shine!
The [symple_highlight color="blue"]Mexican grilled corn salad[/symple_highlight] was the first cooked dish we got and it gave us a good idea about what we were in for. It sounds simple--grilled corn, guajillo pepper, lime and cilantro--but it was done absolutely perfectly. Bringing this to a summertime BBQ would win you friends.
Nothing was more inventive or delicious than the [symple_highlight color="blue"]Pork sausage, habanero, and lychee salad[/symple_highlight]. My brother raved about this from his first visit, and since his food opinions are usually close to mine, I believed him. It doesn't look much like a salad though, does it? The waitress told us to mix it up until it looked gross, which I didn't take a picture of, because it looked gross. It looked like a blind person made an ice cream sundae. Taste-wise was a different story. The pork sausage had some crispy bits and a hint of garlic while the coconut sauce had a bit of a kick from the habaneros. There were bits of red onion, basil, cilantro, mint, and peanuts.
I don't know how Aaron Silverman created this crazy 'salad', but bravo, sir. Eating this made me feel like a judge on Chopped.
A trick was pulled in the [symple_highlight color="blue"]Jerk chicken[/symple_highlight]. We each cut ourselves a piece of the chicken, took a spoonful of the pickled mango raita, then a hunk of the green papaya salad. I bit into the chicken, expecting the spice kick normally associated with jerk chicken, but it never came. The skin was crispy and tasted of the Caribbean, and the meat was incredibly tender, but no heat. Then I took a bite of the papaya salad and got punched right in the tongue with heat.
[symple_highlight color="blue"]Marco's gnocchi[/symple_highlight] was the dish I was least impressed with the whole evening. Sorry, Marco! The description said it had favas, mint and chervil in it, but our whole table agreed that this tasted mostly like your run of the mill mashed potatoes. My brother had the gnocchi his first visit and said it was totally different than this in terms of quality, so I'm just going to assume we got an off batch.
Luckily, the [symple_highlight color="blue"]bucatini[/symple_highlight] with Sungold tomato sauce and parmesan made up for the gnocchi on the pasta front. Simple & tasty. Too bad it had pine nuts in it. They're the worst.
I thought the entire "Other Goods" part of the menu was stellar. We got two orders of the [symple_highlight color="blue"]caramelized cauliflower[/symple_highlight] with Greek yogurt and 'some other stuff'. It may not look so impressive, but it was probably the best cauliflower dish I've ever had. Crunchy, creamy and deeply flavorful.
Prettiest dish of the night goes to the [symple_highlight color="blue"]Portuguese Octopus[/symple_highlight] with burnt lemon puree and fresh herbs. It was art on a plate; it was not just visually impressive, but it tasted fantastic, as well. The octopus was charred and tender. Its mild taste was countered by the bright herbs and indescribable burnt lemon. I guess the chefs at Rose's really like to burn things.
Needing a healthy counterpart to the yet-to-be-shown final dish, we ordered the [symple_highlight color="blue"]honey glazed carrots[/symple_highlight] with mascarpone, matzo meal and dill. These were cooked to perfection, then taken up a notch with a typical Rose's touch. Familiar but still exotic.
The final dish. The reason we couldn't order any desserts. [symple_highlight color="blue"]Smoked brisket[/symple_highlight] with white bread, horseradish and slaw. There was nothing tricky about this dish. No hidden surprises, like a white bread puree or horseradish foam. No, the only surprise was how fantastic this simple dish was. St. Louis has its fair share of great BBQ, all of which have smoked briskets, so I wasn't inclined to order this, but my brother assured me it was worth it. To his credit, he was right again. I would describe the brisket as being lightly smoked in taste but almost buttery in texture.
I wasn't expecting to finish such an imaginative meal with a slice of melt in your mouth brisket drizzled with horseradish over white bread. It reminded me of some of the meals I had in Japan where the simplest courses were the best.
Aaron Silverman and his team at Rose's Luxury are doing something special. The long waits and high accolades show that. The meal bounced between haute cuisine (edible flowers, burnt purees) and classic Southern fare (biscuits, brisket) with such ease and coolness that it takes away the pretentiousness one might expect from the restaurant.
I highly recommend you get to Rose's at 5:30 pm one night and dive into whatever's on the menu that night. I can't wait to get back to DC and see what these guys are up to in a year or so.
717 8th Street SE
Washington, DC 20003