Take Your Time Getting to Know Rose’s Luxury
Some fans, on the other hand, are feeling the, ahem, wait of the world on their shoulders.
“So, can we go get a six-pack and just drink out here?” one exasperated fellow wonders aloud after finding himself at the far end of a morale-sapping, 100-plus person backup to get into the no reservations-taking temple to new American cooking.
The frustration is understandable. And, following the rapid succession of accolades showered upon the Barracks Row retreat at 717 Eighth St. SE — including best new restaurant honors bestowed by Bon Appétit, breaking into the top three of Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema’s 2014 Fall Dining Guide, and recurring shoutouts in different sections of The New York Times (Food, Travel) — it seems unlikely things will cool off any time soon.
The situation leaves those curious about what goes on inside the three-story food laboratory, and those pining for another taste of Team Silverman’s conceptually intriguing, but surprisingly straightforward cooking with but one simple option: voting with their feet.
The crowd seeking entry on a random Friday night is littered with all kinds. A former co-worker I just happened to bump into explained she’d parked her ride a few ticks before 4 p.m., and hustled directly into line. Her party of six wound up being 20th in line — and the doors don’t even open till 5:30 p.m.
By 4:52 that evening, some 97 people were shuffling about, hoping to make the cut for the first dinner rush. The crush of humanity stretched across several blocks, effectively blocking access to a tattoo parlor, a bike shop, The Ugly Mug, a framing store, a tax preparation service, a psychic stand (wonder if “Monica” saw this coming) and a sporting goods store (foul!).
“It’s my birthday today, so this is what I chose,” one first-timer explained of her decision to stick it out no matter what.
“I’m only doing this because you are in from out of town,” an accommodating host assured his visiting pal.
“We might get in,” an optimist who is dozens of people back attempts to assuage his clearly flustered mate.
Others do their best to multitask.
A trio of couples decided to divide and conquer; some held tight while the rest of the crew set up shop on Lola’s welcoming patio. “Go ahead. Go get a beer,” a punchy advance teamer urged pals while tagging back into line standing duty after a 30-minute reprieve.
One gentleman attempted to goad somebody, anybody to wander up the street and bring back fried chicken. “Take one for the team,” he implored his ragtag group of friends. (Sorry to report, no Popeye’s ever materialized.)
Per Silverman, streamlining the admission process remains very much a work in progress. In the wake of Sietsema’s latest endorsement, Silverman said staff “pulled out a couple of tables to make sure things run a little smoother and calmer.” Silverman also mapped out plans to up capacity by fully enclosing the rooftop garden within a retractable greenhouse — a strategic expansion to yield hardier crops and provide year-round seating for the currently seasonal, all-you-can-eat, family-style dinner service reserved for only the most intrepid groups.
Until then, we’ll all just have to make do with the two bars, open kitchen-facing chef’s table and open dining rooms sprinkled about the airy, botanically enhanced space.
“Do we have any allergies?” servers typically ask — not, I contend, to shame anyone, but out of genuine concern for everyone involved — before embarking on a mission to guide you through the succinct, yet adventurous offerings.
A basket of house-made challah never stood a chance. Greedy hands quickly tore apart the artisan loaf — it’s warm and crusty on the outside and as fluffy as a croissant on the inside — and used it to collect as much of the fleur de sel- and black sesame seed-studded, wildflower honey-spiked butter as would fit on a respectable bite.
The enduring pork and lychee salad continues to rattle taste buds. The lusty opener throws chilled pork into a love triangle populated by bracing red onions, sweet-tart tropical fruit and a striking coconut-habanero medley. “No plates. Beat this up!” the server explains as she sets down the some-assembly-required, Southeast Asian-style stunner.
Fresh broccoli is, according to staff, lowered directly into glowing embers. The resulting florets are all smoky edges and crisp cores. The kitchen then tosses the scorched greens in a vibrant anchovy cream sauce and caps things off with terrifically salty curls of shaved Parmesan. A minimalist salad done to maximum effect, thanks to bold and beautiful boquerones.
Fried rice and exotic fruits produce an unexpectedly exhilarating combination. “Where is the ham in this?” a companion asks after we’ve raced to the bottom of a bowl filled with delectable chunks of stir fried Carolina gold rice (crunchy, hash-like exterior; chewy center), lime-spritzed cabbage and luscious Asian pear. To be honest, I didn’t even miss the promised country ham.
An order of brisket summons smoked cow flanked by sliced white bread, fresh horseradish and coleslaw — all of which is, rather hilariously, presented on an actual silver platter.
“It’s, like, the best meal, ever,” gushed one gleeful carnivore upon being presented with the unabashedly beefy proposition. Another less blood lusty-companion lost interest much more quickly, pushing the slices of slow-cooked, loosely grained, fat rimmed meat around the plate for a while before finally declaring that she was “officially over Rose’s Luxury.”
This guy, for one, remains a fan of the thick cut, fork tender ‘cue and fruity slaw.
“Best advice for first timers. … Bring friends and order everything,” Silverman suggested, working in plugs for the nascent caviar service. “Caviar is luxurious. What’s not to like about it?” he argued, noting Rose’s traffics in varying types of sturgeon roe ranging from $15 an ounce to $95 a pop — as well as unadvertised standbys such as a sweet cheese course forged from smoked celery root mascarpone married to chamomile-honey ice and brown butter walnut crumble, and his vegetarian-friendly “Charleston ice cream.”
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go secure a spot in line for my next visit. (You probably should too.)
717 Eighth St. SE; 202-580-8889; rosesluxury.com
Average entree: $13 to $20 ($$). Open for dinner Monday through Saturday.