Dining culture can be unforgiving sometimes. Food writers and taste makers are obsessed with the new, the shiny, the unburnt. National awards, like the James Beard’s, honor America’s Best New Restaurants. As do national publications, like Bon Appétit and GQ, among others.
Even here in DC, what’s new is what’s loved. Twice a year, the Washington Post produces its dining guides for where to eat in the DMV — both in Spring and Fall. Staring with Fall 2018, chief dining critic Tom Sietsema’s guides now only include restaurants younger than 12-months old. They’re helpful guides, to be sure, and any food writing Sietsema produces is must-read material, but it can be hard to stomach all the love lumped on new openings (even those as good as Rooster & Owl) at the expense of the neighborhood joints and the legacy players.
Yes, Rose’s Luxury is old now. It’s still one of the best restaurants in DC.
On Washingtonian’s Top 100 Best Restaurants list for 2019, Rose’s ranks (*scrolls and squints*) 42nd. For me, it belongs much higher on that list but I’ll take it. People should eat here. It was on the front line of the Great DC Restaurant Boom of the 2010s (said another way: The Great Gentrification) and introduced diners to the no-reservation concept co-opted by many a restaurant since (Rose’s now takes reservations) and one of the most important dishes in our city’s history.
That dish? That would be the lychee salad, a mainstay since Rose’s 2013 opening, and a holy matrimony of lychee, ham, peanuts, habanero, garlic chips, red onion, and coconut foam.
Last week, my fiancé and I made our third trek over to Barracks Row for a celebratory dinner of sorts. The lychee salad was a must have, naturally, but the rest of the menu was an unknown. It had been too long since our last visit.
We’re not usually the family-style-order type, and neither the tandoori…ish chicken or the South Carolina brisket tickled our fancy; instead, we rocked out to four small plates (including the lychee) and one pasta. Like it always does at Rose’s, one pasta turned into two when the kitchen brought us a comforting bowl of cacio e pepe. A splendid surprise.
Although we’re not family-style people, we are oyster people. We happily slurped a few spicy bivalves to start the meal, and while I missed the brine-y taste of a naked oyster lightly kissed with lemon juice, I’d recommend it as a way to start the meal. My taste buds woke right up.
Other quick notes: the Japanese souffle pancake was surprisingly good, as was the hand-pulled stracciatella. Will I miss either when they fall off the menu in a few weeks or months? Ehh…the souffle more than the cheese, but I’ll let the cooks at Rose’s take me where they want to go. Just don’t touch my lychee.