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.