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“I always felt like this strip needed something really good,” a dining companion commented after savoring a forkful of smoky grilled greens blanketed in creamy cotija cheese at Barracks Row newcomer Rose’s Luxury.
The 3-week-old restaurant at 717 Eighth St. SE was intentionally designed to stand out from its rapidly multiplying neighbors (Ted’s Bulletin, Belga Café, Matchbox), approximating a much more intimate feel via a funky, come-as-you-are environment.
“It’s a neighborhood place,” chef and founder Aaron Silverman said of the custom townhouse he designed to be home to the captivating open kitchen, cozy dining rooms boasting non-uniformly carved wooden tables and welcoming bars festooned with dangling greenery and strands of holiday lights.
Silverman, who has cooked his way up and down the East Coast — including stints in award-winning kitchens such as Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York, 2941 in Falls Church, Va., and McCrady’s in Charleston, S.C. — originally flirted with the idea of steering meals via a multicourse tasting menu, but has since retooled his vision to allow patrons to choose their own epicurean adventures.
“We like it, and the guests seem to like it too,” he said of a deceptively eclectic carte composed of a dozen small plates — carved into trios of cold dishes, grilled fare, seasonal pastas and culinary mashups — and a pair of family-style platters (currently split between a meat-and-two feast of pork chops, beans and greens, and
a barbecue spread featuring smoked brisket, white bread and coleslaw).Young and Tattooed
Staff is young, heavily tattooed and very enthusiastic; one cheerleader explained that the restaurant prides itself on doing things differently, urging us to try something relatively familiar (“So you can taste how chef has tweaked it”) as well as venture into the gastro-unknown.
Every dish features just a few ingredients. But the totality of each bite confirms they are, for the most part, cleverly combined.
The aforementioned salad proved irresistible. “Burnt” romaine ribs (the edges charred black while the hearts remained tender) were taken south of the border by a hail of crumbled Mexican cheese, buttery avocado slices and tongue-teasing lemon-poblano sauce.
Popcorn soup was more of a one-hit wonder. The marriage of heavy cream and commercial grade popcorn, with a few pieces of salty-sweet kettle corn floated on top for added effect, seemed excessively rich after the third spoonful. Even fishing out the diced bits of grilled lobster sunken to the bottom didn’t provide enough incentive to finish it.
Plainly visible octopi fared much better. Ribbons of sweet shaved fennel bolstered the flame-licked cephalopod and a robust sauce forged from squid ink and cooked lemon.