The Best Restaurant Experience I've Ever Had: The Tasting Menu at Rose's Luxury

Sunday, May 26, 2019

When I travel, I sometimes like to save up for one nice meal. That's not to say that the other meals I eat aren't nice, but we're talkin', like, money nice. I can't always swing it, but when I can, well, I want to try to eat something while away that I just can't get while at home. 

On my recent trip to D.C., that meal came from Rose's Luxury - & oh, what a luxurious meal it was.

I met up after work with my friends Arielle & Rachel at this unassuming but renowned Capitol Hill hotspot, where reservations are hard to get & walk-ins can be even harder. Fortunately for us, there was a bit of a flash storm right around 4pm, when people typically start lining up for walk-in spots at the restaurant, so it was less crowded than usual - even though it wasn't raining anymore & had become quite a nice evening. 

Arielle & I got there first, so we settled in for drinks upstairs while we waited for Rachel. Arielle went the mezcal route, while I went with an amaro cocktail whose ingredients I can no longer recall (apparently the drink list changes pretty regularly, too, because a Google search shows me all kinds of other amaro-based creations that weren't on the menu when we were there).

Needless to say, this drink was right up my alley, & I ordered it twice. I wish I'd taken notes on what else was in there! It was a perfect patio sipper for a cocktail-lover who doesn't enjoy extremely sweet or sour drinks - think a lightened-up Mantattan, almost. 


We were celebrating, in part, Arielle's upcoming birthday, which made me feel even more confident in my decision to ball out a little bit. Rose's Luxury does most small, shareable plates, so I was delighted to find that we were all in agreement that we wanted to go the route of the tasting menu.

Our server, Dominic, chose 10 items from the menu & a few things that weren't on it, making for a fun surprise of of an evening for us. I told him of my mushroom allergy, & we told him we weren't too keen on meat on bones, but that we were open to just about everything else. 

With that, we trusted him & let him come up with whatever he wanted for us - & as you can tell by the gushing title of this post, he did not let us down.

Our first dish was a dollop of coconut ice cream topped with white caviar caviar & lime juice & served in an open coconut shell. When I asked on Instagram if my friends & followers would try this one, a whopping 44% of them said "Hells to the no."

Frankly, I was surprised that I wanted to try it, but I'd just committed to this big, fancy meal. How could I turn down the first dish?! Lucky for me, this one turned out to be a delightful mix of sweet & salty, with a smooth, creamy texture like... well, kind of like gummy bears atop ice cream. I don't love the texture of caviar, but as long as I didn't think too much about it, I liked this a lot better than, say, the weirdly crunchy texture of fish roe atop sushi.

In September, this dish was featured in a piece in The Washington Post about the rise of caviar in D.C.-area meal. Interestingly, the chef who owns Rose's Luxury serves a dish at his other restaurant, Pineapple and Pearls (I hate this name) made with a truffle ice cream, caviar, &... gummy bears!

This next dish, wish I thought was especially gorgeous, was grilled cucumber topped with yogurt, sumac, & anchovy. There must be some other things on there, too, but I can't remember, nor is the Internet turning anything up for me. 

Again, the Internet seems pretty opposed to this dish - but again, the Internet is entitled to its incorrect opinion, because this was a surprisingly good combo. Especially tasty was the green liquid beneath the dish, which was unexpectedly sweet & which we each ate a spoonful of, like soup, when the dish itself was gone. 

Rachel & Arielle were so excited when the next dish was delivered to our table; apparently, it's among the restaurant's most popular & thus most famous: lychee salad with pork sausage, habanero, peanuts, red onions, garlic flakes, & coconut cream. 

Weird, right? And yet so freaking good. I'm honestly disappointed that this photo looks the least appealing of all of them, because far & away, this dish was the most delicious. It's sweet, it's salty, it's garlicky, it's got fruit, it's got meat, it's... legitimately one of the weirder things I've ever consumed, & yet, I desperately want to eat it again. Like, daily.

Can't make it to D.C.? Healthy Recipe Ecstasy shared a similar but complicated-sounding recipe inspired by the original - & if I thought I could it on, I'd definitely try to make it at home.

Next up: Singaporean soft-shell crab, served as an open-faced sandwich with a side of pickles. I've only ordered soft-shell crab once before, not realizing that, unlike hard-shell crabs, you eat them whole - shell & all. That other time, well, let's just say I didn't end up eating them.

But this meal was special, & again, I wasn't going to not eat what they served me. Fortunately, because the dish was fried, I didn't have to see the whole crab & thus wasn't freaked out by it. (Eating legs is always a little weird, right?) It looked & tasted like fried chicken, but with a light crab taste - & the spicy glaze was just right, with the sourness of the pickles to cut it,

Next up was a trio of pasta, all served at the same time, & all evoking our collective delight.

so wish there'd been more of the farfalle pasta with honey, pecorino cheese, & 'nduja (which is apparently a spicy, spreadable pork, though I'm glad no one described it to me that way before I ate it). Before we'd decided on the tasting menu, this was the menu item that was highest atop my to-order list, so I was glad we got to try it - & it was everything I'd hoped it would be.

It tasted like upscale comfort food, you know? All that cheese, the sweetness of the honey, the savory taste of the pork, the spices... I only got, like, three pieces of pasta, but I would've happily eaten three bowls, had they been available to me.

Arielle had been hoping for the cacio e pepe, with handmade rigatoni, which isn't always listed on the menu but is apparently a known off-menu fave & usually still available to order (per Arielle & Washingtonian). 

I don't know if I've ever had a proper cacio e pepe before - & if I have, well, it still wasn't as properly delicious as this one. So much butter, a light dusting of cheese, the crunch & zing of the pepper... as a bougie reviewer on Yelp said of it, "Wow, what a symphony of flavor & texture."

Our third & final pasta was one of Rachel's prior favorites & another iconic Rose's Luxury dish: the strawberry pasta is made with a jammy tomato-strawberry sauce, for a sweet-meets-acidic combo that is strange but also lovely, topped with red onions & ricotta.
This is another one you can make at home, if you're a more accomplished cook than I: Chef Aaron Silverman shared his recipe with Bon Appetit!

Onto desserts! These, too, were served at the same time: The one you see here is chocolate cake with cashew frosting & passionfruit ice cream

Though I've never been much of a chocolate person, cashew & passionfruit are two of my favorite flavors, so I was all-in on this one - & to my delight, it wasn't nearly as sweet as I'd expected it to be. And yes, the flowers were edible. 

This foie gras French toast marks the first & only dish of the evening that I didn't try in its entirety. I ate some of this dish - the desserty parts - but I confess that I couldn't bring myself to try the foie gras. (I hate the idea of the way its harvested, & I don't love fatty meats, & everything about it just gives me the squicks.)

It was, however, served alongside some truly fantastic cinnamon French toast ice cream (hey, Mitchell's, can you please start making this?), & the French toast itself was... oh, just so delightful. It was steaming hot, the perfect little breakfast pastry, but with the ice cream quickly melting around it like a glaze... whew, was that good. (It, too, was written up in the Post, if you're interested.)

We left Rose's Luxury full & happy, our wallets lighter but our hearts more full. It was one of the best meals I've ever had, if not the actual best, & it wasn't just the food that made it that way. It was the whole experience, from the friendliness of the staff to the thoughtfulness of our server to the decor & atmosphere to the company I dined with.

Overall, this neon sign on the back wall at Rose's Luxury really summed it all up:

Have you ever been to Rose's Luxury? Anything on this tasting menu you wouldn't dare eat? Do you ever go the tasting menu route? I think I'm a convert! 

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