12/23/16—It was a pretty huge year for the chef-owner of Rose’s Luxury and Pineapple & Pearls, Aaron Silverman. First, he was named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs for 2016. Then, he won a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic. And then the real icing on the cake—he earned Michelin stars for BOTH of his DC restaurants: two stars for Pineapple & Pearls, and one star for Rose’s Luxury. More than a year after Rose’s Luxury opened, people still line up down the street and wait for hours to get seated at the no-reservations, first-come-first-serve restaurant in Capitol Hill. Normally it would be difficult for me to leave work in time to get a spot in line, given that the restaurant opens at 5pm, but I had the day off due to the holidays. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally try Rose’s, and just in time to be my last blog post of 2016.
My friend Will agreed to join me, and we parked ourselves at a nearby pub around 3:30pm to monitor the line situation. At about 4:15pm, we decided it was time to join the line of people queuing up outside the restaurant. I would say we probably lucked out with our wait in line being only 45 minutes. When we got to the entrance to the restaurant, they gave us the option of being seated immediately, or deferring to a later time, at which the restaurant would text us that our table was ready. We opted for the immediate seating, and somehow managed to snag seats at the counter right in front of the open kitchen. For the whole meal, we were able to casually observe the line cooks assembling each of the dishes while we chatted and enjoyed our food. Talk about an awesome setup!
We started out with some handcrafted cocktails. I chose one made with rye, rose water, and lemon—I figured, when at Rose’s…get the rose water cocktail, right? It came with little bits of rose petal floating in the top, which was a nice touch. Will chose the “Penicillin”, which was made with blended scotch, honey, ginger, and Islay scotch. Both of these cocktails were well-balanced between sweet and tart, with the alcohol not being too overpowering, but still present and not overshadowed by the other flavors.
The menu was divided into four sections: little bites, small plates, pasta, and family style. It was extremely hard to not just order the whole menu; we ended up choosing most of the options in the little bites and small plates sections.
Before any of our little bites arrived, the server brought over some house-made bread. The bread was so soft on the inside that it was hard to cut. It was served with a whipped butter spread that was generously sprinkled with crumbled fried potato skins and chives. I had never tried anything like this before, but the potato skins added incredible flavor to the spread.
Our first little bite to arrive was the sake & wasabi marinated oysters with apple granita. All of the flavors were perfectly balanced, and the oyster was tender and delicious. This was the best oyster I’ve ever had (and I’ve had many oysters in my time).
Then came the foie gras tart with hazelnut, white chocolate, and Asian pear. This little tart just melted in your mouth; all of the flavors combined for the perfect bite of sweet, savory, crunchy, and smooth.
The last little bite to arrive was the stuffed dates with cultured butter and walnuts. The texture on these was surprisingly uniform throughout, except for the buttery, crunchy walnut on top. The texture was like biting into a chocolate truffle. The sweetness was offset by the saltiness of the butter and the nuttiness of the walnut.
Then came the small plates. The first to arrive was the one that was on special—apparently, truffles are in season this time of year, so the restaurant was featuring a stracciatella di bufala with shaved truffles. Stracciatella di bufala is an Italian buffalo milk cheese that is made using a stretching and shredding technique. The cheese was so stretchy, in fact, that we had trouble pulling off small enough pieces to top the mashed-garlic-covered focaccia that it was served with. The restaurant definitely did not skimp on the truffles…never had I seen such a volume of shaved truffles in one place. Between the truffles in the cheese and the garlic covering the bread, this dish had to be one of the richest and most delectable items I’ve had in awhile. We proceeded to devour it pretty quickly.
Next up was the pork sausage, habanero, peanuts, and lychee salad. The salad was composed of the listed items, as well as some raw red onion, cilantro, coconut foam, and a coconut “snow.” All of the ingredients were carefully oriented within the bowl to make for a stunning presentation. The waitress advised us to mix it well to ensure all of the flavors blended together before we tried a bite. This one wins most interesting dish; I really didn’t know what to expect out of that combination of flavors, but somehow it all came together into this beautifully balanced, perfect bite.
Then came the fried brussels sprouts w/benne tahini, eel sauce, and bonito (a type of fish). This was another great example of a well-rounded dish. The sauces combined to form a creamy, sweet, tangy dressing for the crispy fried sprouts.
Next was the shrimp with curry and topped with crispy sweet potato and herbs. The fresh herbs on top added needed freshness to the crunchy fried potatoes and the rich, creamy shrimp underneath. Also, I appreciated that the tails were already off the shrimp…one less thing for me to worry about!
The last small plate to arrive was the boudin-stuffed jalapeño with yellow grits and celery. Boudin is a Cajun specialty consisting of cooked rice, pork, onions, green peppers, and seasonings, that is then pulverized in a meat grinder and stuffed into a sausage casing. The jalapeño added plenty of heat to the mix, but the creamy grits and refreshing pops of celery helped to cool things down a bit.
Our waiter noticed that we had not ordered anything from the pasta section of the menu, so he sent us over a complimentary bowl of the farro reginetti with garlic, kale, and mustard greens. The pasta was perfectly al dente and swimming in a pool of butter and garlic—so rich and decadent! The waiter definitely earned extra tip with this maneuver.
Because all of the bites and plates were so small, we were at a comfortable level of full—with a little bit of room left for dessert. We opted for the coconut milk ice cream, with burnt coconut, lime, and kiwi. The whole dish was sprinkled with more of the coconut “snow” from the pork lychee salad. I never would have thought to intentionally burn coconut, but it really deepened the flavor and added a nice touch of bitterness that mixed well with the other sweet and tangy flavors the dish had going. It was a light and refreshing end to the meal.
Everything about Rose’s Luxury—the food, service, atmosphere, presentation, overall experience—was phenomenal. Aaron Silverman is a true artist. I could not have picked a better restaurant to round out my 2016 year in food. Cheers to a year of great food, and hopefully even more in 2017!