I made a resolution to try at least one new recipe or restaurant every week of 2020. This was easier some weeks (e.g. travel weeks) than others (e.g. deep in burnout, months into quarantine weeks) so there were a handful of weeks where I either only ordered from restaurants I’ve eaten from before or only cooked familiar old recipes.
This was a good exercise for me, as keeping this goal in mind did push me to try to order from new restaurants, at the very least, and to find new recipes to cook. But it did feel like a lot of pressure to try new things when I really wanted the comfort of familiarity during this difficult year. (For example, I would have liked to support restaurants more regularly, even though I don’t regret supporting different restaurants week to week.)
Happy Valentine’s Day! I wanted to share how Ben and I celebrated early a few days ago, but please remember to love yourself, however you are able to best do that.
This is my 400th post on this blog, and I have officially been posting twice a week consistently for an entire calendar year. I’m really proud to have reached this point and may be taking a small hiatus in posting regularly while I pull myself together and refocus. (Might not, we’ll see how I feel!) Thank you so much for being with me this past year and these past 400 posts.
I have a lot of thoughts about the DC food scene, but I will admit that it is improving. (I’ll put up all my gripes about the DC food scene and places that have shown this improvement in the near future!) Last year, Washington DC was recognized as Bon Appetit magazine’s Restaurant City of the Year and also received its first-ever Michelin stars, and that is thanks to many great new restaurants and chefs that have made enough of a name for themselves to do fresh, bold things.
But we aren’t here to talk about the hot new places. Rose’s Luxury has been one of the most-hyped restaurants in the District since I started working in the area. It earned a Michelin star last year and can be reliably found on Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list year after year. I’ve only ever heard good things from friends who’ve visited the restaurant, citing that yes, it is worth the hype!
Where does most of the hype come from? 2 things:
Their most famous dish, a pork & lychee salad
The fact that they do not take reservations, so people have to start waiting in line at 3pm in order to get a table for dinner… 2.5 hours later.
They do take reservations for large parties (6 or more), but I couldn’t find that many friends so I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to eat at Rose’s.
BUT THEN! Towards the end of last year, Rose’s Luxury announced that they would be accepting reservations! For parties of 2! With the purchase of a gift card that could be used towards that meal!
TL;DR Rose’s Luxury does an impressive job of combining a lot of different flavors in a balanced and unexpectedly delicious way, all while injecting a bit of sassy personality along the way.
Despite the name, Rose’s Luxury is not a luxurious, pretentious, fancy restaurant. In fact, you might walk past it if you’re not paying attention.
Inside, the ambiance is similarly not-stuffy and, in fact, more on the hipster-trendy side. Rose’s has a lot of personality, and it shows in their decor. We were seated upstairs near the bar, and walked past my friends’ favorite seating area that is lit overhead by globe string lights.
Behind me was a shelf with books and fun knick-knacks. A certificate in dining from Hooter’s did not escape me among the otherwise very Pinterest-worthy collection. The servers were dressed casually and otherwise indistinguishable from guests, who were not dressed to the nines for their 9pm dinners. In the bathroom, behind a small mirror was a window that overlooked the dining area below and still had elements of the personality that was subtly embedded in the entire restaurant experience.
We had a gift certificate to blow on our 5th Valentine’s Day together, so let’s get into the food!
The meal kicked off with a soft potato brioche w/ bacon butter. This wasn’t particularly outstanding as far as breads go, but I liked the soft texture and the warmed, soft bacon butter a lot. I only wished it didn’t crumble so much because I want bread to go in my belly, not on the board.
We enjoyed these little bites, and they were a great way to prep us for what is, I believe, the core of the Rose’s Luxury experience: pulling off interesting, unexpected, and bold flavor combinations.
Stuffed dates w/ cultured butter & walnuts // Ben took a bit to warm up to these, but I really liked the sweet and soft dates, the savoriness and warmth of the butter, and the slight crunch and bitterness of the walnuts.
Foie gras tart w/ hazelnut, white chocolate, & Asian pear // This was the strangest of the little bites because of the white chocolate chips embedded in the not-sweet foie gras filling of the tart. But it still came together because of its creaminess and it complemented the sweet flavors of the chocolate and the pear. Kind of hated it when I first bit into it, but found myself liking it a lot by the time the bite was gone.
Sake & wasabi-marinated oysters w/ apple granita // I don’t usually like wasabi very much (sorry wasabi pea lovers!), but these oysters were great because of how the very different flavors and textures came together. It was a bit much for one slurp, but I liked how the frozen apple granita helped mollify the burn I would’ve felt from the wasabi and even from the sake, while still allowing some of flavor of the oyster to come through.
Pork sausage, habanero, peanuts, & lychee // Here we are. The most famous dish at Rose’s Luxury, cited in over 250 reviews on Yelp. At the bottom were herbs and on top was a dollop of coconut cream that, as you stirred the whole thing, would melt over the salad and act as the dressing. There were a lot of flavors happening in this small plate and I do think this is a good example of how Rose’s Luxury really pushes the envelope with combining flavors. Ben and I found this salad a bit too salty and not really worth the hype, to be honest. It was tasty and honestly, I do admire what Aaron Silverman did with this flavor combination, but it didn’t change my life and I wouldn’t go out of my way to get it again.
Fried brussels sprouts w/ benne tahini, eel sauce, & bonito // The prominent flavors in this one were brussels sprouts and tahini, both of which are very strong flavors. I felt this was maybe the least successful in terms of balancing the flavors of all the components, but it was still tasty because the sprouts and tahini were an interesting combination. I just didn’t think the other flavors had much of an effect in the quantity that they were used.
Crispy squid w/ Yemeni hot sauce, romaine, & sweet lemon puree // By the time this came out, Ben and I were starting to feel the effect of the food. We hadn’t really eaten that much, but I think we felt very satiated by the sheer quantity of flavors that we were consuming. The flavors were pretty well-balanced in this one, although I didn’t detect much heat from the hot sauce and I’m not sure if that was intentional or not. The squid itself was… prepared okay? Not that crispy, but it’s hard for me to find a calamari I don’t like.
Thai-marinated pork blade steak w/ nahm prik slaw // Again, by the time this came out, Ben and I weren’t as eager about the food anymore. I was also really sleepy by this point in the evening, as we were seated for dinner at close to 9:30pm and I have been getting sleepy very early because I’ve been attempting exercise in the mornings. As a result, I don’t really have any thoughts about this pork dish, it didn’t stand out as particularly good or bad.
If you’re thinking that maybe we were regretting ordering a pasta… you’d be right. I was nodding off at this point in the meal and my belly was trying to come to terms with how many flavors and ingredients it had met over the past hour. We ordered the farro reginetti w/ garlic, kale, & mustard greens and… it was okay.
The two of us, personally, do not like our pasta cooked very al dente, so the bite-y pasta was a bit of a struggle when 10:30, 11 was rolling around. The taste was fine but… pretty ordinary, to be really honest. A touch of sauce didn’t really help how overwhelmingly al dente this pasta was, and I wasn’t super excited about the leftovers I brought to lunch the next day.
However, our server, Janine, sent a “gift” of a little bit of their Martelli spaghetti w/ tomato, chili, basil, & Parmesan and that was coated in maybe the best pasta sauce I have ever tasted in my entire life? I like my tomato sauces to be a bit sweet, and this was the perfect amount of sweetness that I could tell wasn’t the result of the sloppy addition of sugar. We only were able to take some of this home because we were so done with the meal already, and having those two bites to enjoy over the weekend was nothing short of glorious. I really want the recipe for this tomato sauce, it was the highlight of the entire meal for me and we didn’t even order it! Thank you so much, Janine!
Listen, I know I said that I was basically passed out and unable to eat but I didn’t come all this way to celebrate Valentine’s Day and not eat dessert. You just gotta open up that dessert compartment in your stomach and you’re good to go. Based on Janine’s recommendation, we got the coconut ice cream with burnt caramel coconut and kiwi.
I didn’t love this, unfortunately. The ice cream was tasty, but I think it felt weird to have more coconut after the coconut cream from the pork & lychee salad during a meal where my mouth was constantly being surprised by different flavors and how they were combined. A repeat performance by coconut was like, “Hey… what are you doing back here?” Also, I did not like the burnt caramel coconut. It was sticky in that unpleasant way that lent it a kind of poor mouthfeel and I found the bitterness to just not really work at this point in the evening. And kiwi was a fun choice but I’m not sure I loved the tartness of the kiwi with the sweet and creamy ice cream. I know that people really love this dessert, but I think I just wasn’t in the mood for more coconut or for a flavor to come from burnt-ness.
At the end of the meal, our receipt was brought out to us with a sesame brittle and little touches that made us smile.
I enjoyed my time at Rose’s Luxury but I’m glad I never had to wait hours to eat here. I don’t think it’s worth that kind of wait, and as a result I don’t think it’s worth the level of hype it has achieved. That being said, Aaron Silverman and his team are doing some incredible things with food and flavor that I think DC needs more of. Even the small plates format – which I normally loathe here in DC – works for this because you are getting small punches of these crazy flavors.
Ah yes, the cooler months have finally arrived (after a second summer heat wave…), so you know that means I will be all over that noodles in hot broth game. I have been living in Northern Virginia for a little bit, so I thought I’d take some time to talk to you about the ramen options you have in this region. And we’re not talking about ramen the instant noodle, but rather that picturesque big ol’ bowl of noodles, an umami-licious broth, and yummy toppings. (Not knocking the instant variety of ramen!)
Not this kind
MARUMEN // 3250 Old Pickett Rd Fairfax, VA 22031 // (703) 352-6278
Marumen is one of our go-to spots when we are craving ramen. It is not the most expensive option of the ones in the area, the broth is always on point, and they give all the toppings I want in bowl of ramen. Taste-wise and value-wise, this is the spot I most recommend to folks. They also do tsukemen (dipping-style) ramen, with fun names: Astro Boy, Ultraman, and Godzilla. Bonus: Complimentary edamame at the beginning of your meal and free iced/hot black tea.
JINYA // 2911 District Ave Suite 140 Fairfax, VA, 22031 // (703) 992-7705
Jinya is one of the newer ramen joints in the area and is the first DMV location of the trendy California chain. When you walk in, all the servers in their plaid shirts shout… something. (I still don’t know what this is.) I really like the flavors of their ramen bowls here. They have some unique flavors and will give you a jar of garlic cloves and a garlic press – free of charge – if you want to add some freshly-pressed garlic puree to your bowl. I also like their combos, although we’ve had some issues with the appetizer part of the combo coming out before our ramen. They also have an extensive drink menu and are in the poppin’ Mosaic District in Fairfax.
Kizuna was the most convenient option for us to visit and their happy hour often appealed to us. You can get sushi, a sake tasting, and just a plethora of options, really. There is also a super lovely outdoor seating area when the weather is nice! However, I’ve found their bowls to be very hit-or-miss. My first visit here almost made me not want to come back. We visited several times after, but then one of the last times I went, the ramen simply didn’t taste good. I’m also a little salty that they don’t include the egg with a standard bowl; I don’t think this is an optional topping! Still, you can’t beat their happy hour options.
I haven’t tried all the options in DC yet, but I am making my way through a few of them.
What DMV ramen spots are your favorite that I should try?
Last time on SF 2016, we did a walking tour through Chinatown, Nob Hill, and Fisherman’s Wharf. After a lot of steps logged on people’s fitness trackers, it was time to head back to the hotel to get ready for dinner…
Also, you may have noticed that I have gone back to my Tuesday/Friday posting schedule. I chose it for a good reason, and the Monday/Thursday was really throwing me off…
After soaking up a little bit of sunshine post-arcade games, we took cars back to our hotel to rest our feet and get ready for dinner. Our reservation wasn’t for a few hours, and we didn’t trust ourselves to actually nap, so our hotel room started watching Netflix’s Stranger Things.
We got thoroughly heebie-jeebie-ed watching the first episode and only then learning that one of the lamps in our room flickered. A lot. (On the show, the lights flickered when the monster was nearby.) Having the thick curtains drawn and all of the other lights out certainly didn’t help! (Cue me hiding in the blankets.)
Then it was time for dinner! After a group vote, we wound up at Harris, a traditional steakhouse. It was easy to forget that while we were just getting together with friends, this is a formal restaurant, as we were reminded when a waiter asked one of our party to remove his hat. (Yes they did!) Ben and I split the big ol’ porterhouse with foie gras. (Harris will allow you to split a steak and give each person their own plate for sides for an additional charge.) To be honest, I was disappointed with the steak. At this price point, I am expecting a lot more, and I felt a little bit sick after eating. I didn’t want to finish my portion, even though I came into the meal super hungry. (I didn’t even have the opportunity to regret filling up on bread because we were all given one piece per person.)
Still wanting to eat and treat myself for our Big Night Out, I knew I had room in my belly for dessert and went for the baked Alaska. Again, it was fine but just not what I was expecting. Baked Alaska has never been my favorite, and we failed to clean the plate for this one.
Afterwards, it was back to the hotel to get ready for part 2 of our Big Night Out: dancing at the club. We pregamed a bit in the hotel room, getting hyped on music videos and touching speeches about friendship. The guys specifically sought out an Asian nightclub for the sake of the bachelors in our group and landed on Origin.
Unfortunately, I suspect that Origin was too well-known as a hot Asian club, and people didn’t want to go to an established Asian club so when we arrived at 11:30, it was… well… suspiciously empty…
Luckily, we sprang for table service so we were able to drink and dance and SIT. We were really glad that we didn’t pay the extra $$$ for a table on the dancefloor, because those tables were just a few feet in front of ours and we liked that ours were out of the way enough that we could leave our jackets there without worrying about random people walking by to take them.
Ultimately, some folks drank too much and the rest of us spent end of the evening taking care of them. I was able to climb into bed at the ghastly hour of 3:30AM. (Remember, that’s 6:30 Eastern time…) This was just dandy, as I had a 5AM alarm to look forward to hearing… But it was a fun night out and I was excited for a fun Sunday ahead of me because it was time to be reunited with Christine!!!
Where would you go for dinner and dancing for a Big Night Out? In our ride the day after, our driver told us his recommendations for fancy dinners and nightclubs, even including the new hotness in the Asian clubbing scene. We’ll keep them in mind, but maybe they’ll be out of style by the time we return!
Have you watched Stranger Things? Ben and I finished a few days after returning and I had goosebumps all over my body every episode.
Last time on NYC 2016, we were a lot more successful with the alliterative post titles… and we really tried to experience some more typical tourist activities like Smorgasburg (which I left the island of Manhattan for, yes) and Broadway and even some shopping in Times Square, which both of us have learned to avoid. It was time for our last full day in my home city.
Note: I took almost no photos this day EXCEPT at our dessert-dinner, which will get its own dedicated post, so brace yourself for a lot of text and not a lot of pictures to go with it, sorry!
One thing I came away from our latest trip to New York with was the feeling that we managed to do so much this trip without exhausting ourselves. We had a lot of activities, but I didn’t plan every minute of every hour. We had a lot of leisure time built in. (Remember those cuh-razy naps in the middle of the day? Unheard of for me.)
We made plans to get dim sum with Ben’s friends that we were partying with in Koreatown the other night (which was bonus time with them, as we had only planned for dim sum!), so Sunday morning we headed down to Chinatown. Dim sum in Chinatown on the weekends is a great opportunity for catching up, because you will be waiting in line for a while. We wound up being seated fastest at Joy Luck Palace, which, to be honest, I wouldn’t visit again. The food was all pretty meh and we had to specially ask for egg custard tarts, aka dan ta 蛋挞! Those should be standard, not something we ask them to make for us and then wait half an hour to eat. (But shout out to the manager who did acquiesce our request for those little golden delights.) Also, in a show of who is truly more popular in the New York metropolitan area, Ben’s old college roommate’s family showed up for dim sum and I got to meet a lot of family members that I didn’t get to see when they graduated!
(There was also a lot of Pokemon Go, as the app had just been released a few days prior to our trip and there were a lot of Pokestops in the area!)
After dim sum, we chilled for a bit in Columbus Park while waiting for some other folks to meet us. My friend Yufeng showed me Columbus Park for the first time when I visited a little while ago and it is like a tiny piece of China in the middle of Chinatown. There are seniors doing tai chi and a lot of small kids running around with their grandmothers calling after them. Old men playing Chinese chess in their singlets, middle-aged ladies doing choreography for fitness. Often, there will be some music playing to accompany the dancing and/or tai chi. It’s a really serene park that I love spending down time relaxing in. We chilled while watching a local league basketball game go down (they were really good!) and I panicked once when a small child ran directly to me for help in tying off his water balloon. (It’s like he knew that tying off water balloons is one of the skills I was too afraid to learn?!)
With the whole crew assembled (and a few new Pokemon for our friends), we walked over to the Bowery Beer Garden (located beneath the Wyndham Garden Chinatown) to watch the much-anticipated UEFA Euro Final between Portugal and France. We got there pretty late as far as a good view of the TVs went, but we were still able to enjoy the game. Soccer is one of the few sports that I get really into watching, but I haven’t been following for a while. When asked which team I was rooting for, I didn’t know until the end when Portugal scored their sole, game-winning goal and I felt devastated. Evidently, I was rooting for France! It was a lot of fun to watch the game, despite how hot and mosquito-y the day had started to feel.
Ben and I then parted ways with our friends to start heading over to Greenwich Village for our dinner reservation. Well, dinner might not be entirely accurate. I wanted to treat Ben to something special, so I got us seats at Unlimited Possibilities (U.P.) by Dominique Ansel. I will have a more in-depth review coming up soon, but it is an 8-seat tasting menu of all desserts. The theme of ours was American Dreams, with each course based on a different era of American success and ideals. I would definitely recommend eating a light dinner beforehand, as the courses, while well-thought out, aren’t very big. And it is dessert! (We scarfed down some more Joe’s Pizza in Washington Square Park before heading inside because duh.) It was a really nice experience that I’m glad we could try once.
Holding little silver balloons and bellies full of sweets, we headed back up to our hotel to meet one of my oldest friends, who lived just a few blocks away. (I thought he had moved, but he’s still there after a few years!) We had a quick catch-up late-night meal at BXL Eastand it was just like old times. I’ve known him since I was 12 and no matter how much time passes between us talking, we fall really easily back into laughter and jokes, which I appreciate so so much.
Our last morning in New York, we woke up, enjoyed our coffee parting gifts from U.P., and munched on pastries at the nearby Paris Baguette, which may be becoming a departure tradition for me. Then, one last yellow cab trip to the Javitz Center to reminisce about a very boring conference for Ben and away on our bus we went.
And you can bet we got Bojangles upon returning to DC this time.
What is a treat-yo-self meal that you like to indulge in when you visit New York? It was my first time doing a ~fancy~ meal but I know there are a lot of other ways to blow cash on good food in the city!
What are your favorite dim sum dishes? Mine are the 凤爪 chicken feet (!!), the 蝦肠粉shrimp in rice noodle rolls, and 蛋挞 egg custard tarts, among many others.
Where else should we have visited in New York? We can go next time!