Call me crazy, but I’m not a fan of the lychee. This strange little fruit confusingly looks like a pearl onion but is usually positioned in a sickeningly sweet martini at an overpriced cocktail bar sipped by stick figured chicks. The kind of chicks who were more than happy to drink cosmopolitans when “Sex and the City” was on the air but now think they need something more exotic. Okay, maybe I’m projecting, but the point is, no likey lychees.
Until Rose’s Luxury (and Emily’s recommendation). This amazing James Beard-nominated eatery in D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood is, in my mind anyway, reclaiming the lychee. Their signature lychee starter combines pork sausage, habanero, red onions, peanuts amongst lord knows what else into a deconstructed “salad.” It’s senseless, but once you heartily stir up this concoction into a gloopy, un-photogenic mess and gobble it up, it works. The humble lychee, rescued from a mundane martini, is now the star of a flavor sensation.
And this is the theme with Rose’s Luxury: None of these things seem to go together, but
it works it sings.
We started with oysters two ways. Up until this point, only Le Bernadin, renowned pinnacle of seafood, has been able to make me actually enjoy a raw oyster. Topped with a tangy tomato granita, the teensy Kusshi oyster was surprisingly delicious. (Applause for you, chef Silverman). The chicken-fried oyster with tzatziki was next and a great crunchy, savory contrast to the Kusshi’s light freshness.
For a pasta course, we chose the ricotta-stuffed gnocchi which was probably the most “ordinary” dish of our evening. And by ordinary I don’t mean boring whatsoever, only leaning on the simple Italian flavors with the fun twist of being stuffed more like a ravioli than the traditional potato dumpling.
Next up were the uni scrambled eggs. Sea urchin? Eggs? Yup, that brilliant earthy saltiness with a basic egg base just hits you with a little something special that makes you wonder, “What’s in this?”
You guys, foie gras french toast. I feel like those four words should be enough, but with the sweet undercurrent of the foie gras, it’s so surprise that this almost felt like dessert. It was topped with ice cream for heaven’s sake, which also added the delightful hot/cold contrast to the already tounge-teasing sweet/salty combination. Heaven on a plate.
Rose’s Luxury is not just reclaiming the lychee, they’re also creating an efficient dessert experience by combining traditional sweet options with the cheese course. (And remember, Emily and I like us some cheese). All of the desserts we had featured cheese in the most extraordinary ways. First, sourdough donuts with apple cider and vanilla ice cream topped with cheddar. Then, poached bosc pear with smoked mascarpone. Finally, pineapple cornbread with jack cheese and bay leaf ice cream. It shouldn’t work. But it all does somehow. I can only imagine what kind of menu brainstorming and mad scientist-like testing must go on in Aaron Silverman’s kitchen after hours, culminating with managing to get me to eat and enjoy both raw oysters and lychees. Evil genius? Or just plain genius?
Rose’s doesn’t take reservations, but if you show up at opening time like we did, put your name in and amuse yourself with cocktails nearby for the likely hour plus wait, you’ll arrive hungry and ready for a special experience. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to sit at the kitchen counter to watch all of the action!
All of these dishes seem like they would fit in a pretentious, modern space filled with sharp edges and prickly staff, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The space is warm and inviting with exposed brick, fairy lights, communal tables and a feeling more like the indie vibe in Portland or Austin. If the food is the star, the staff is a close second. We were taken care of by the lovely Elizabeth from the moment we sat down, offered a top-up on our cava on the house, and treated to a couple of little tastes from the (very cute) chefs.
I’m not overstating that this was one of the best meals of my life. Not long after our evening at Rose’s I mentioned to Emily that I think I could fit in quite nicely if I moved to Washington, D.C. Coincidence?!?! 😉
Rose's Luxury 717 8th St SE Washington, DC 20003 +1 (202) 580-8889
© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.