Perhaps no chef has transformed the trajectory of DC’s restaurant scene like Aaron Silverman, whose Rose’s Luxury which won accolades here and there, including being named the best new restaurant of 2014 in Bon Appetit magazine. Having lived in the DC area for the last two years of my college years, the city never struck me as a foodie destination, a perception that stayed with me when I was living in New York City in the past ten years. While my wife Jun and I had never had the chance to visit chef Silverman’s two-Micheline star establishment Pineapple & Pearls before it shut down during the pandemic, we did visit Little Pearl back in February 2021 and were not particularly impressed. Would Rose’s Luxury offer a more pleasant experience? After a couple of visits in 2022, I’m pleased to report that the restaurant instantly became one of our favorite restaurants in DC.
The biggest strength of Rose’s Luxury is how it takes good food seriously, but not overly so. The menu encourages larger groups of diners, each getting to choose two dishes from the fairly concise menu to share at $75 per person on weekdays and $85 per person on Friday and Saturday (of course, you can order more than the quota and pay extra like we did). On our first visit, after Jun and I got seated at the counter in front of the kitchen and started browsing the menu, our server came over and said we must have the pork and lychee salad, which had been with the restaurant since its beginning. Intrigued, we ordered the dish and in came this wonderfully ingenious plate of pork whose salty, fatty and spicy flavor worked magic with the sweet lychee. On our second visit, there was a variation of this dish called “NOT” the pork and lychee salad that was just as delicious, with brussels sprouts and prosciutto accompanied by Campari hollandaise sauce to create wonderfully sour flavor.
The dish that in my mind represented the creative ethos of Rose’s Luxury, however, was not even on the menu. After a couple of delicious vegetable starters (kabocha squash and grilled cabbage), the sommelier brought a plate of strawberry spaghetti as a complementary dish after apologizing for mis-quoting the price of a wine we ordered by $4. After all the dining in and around DC, New York and beyond, I couldn’t recall having a dish quite like the spaghetti, with the wonderful strawberry flavor somehow blending seamlessly into the pasta with ricotta on top. The memorable experience with this spaghetti gave us a clue to order another pasta dish on our second visit, and it turned out to be a wise choice. We were absolutely jubilant tasting the marvelous spring lamb manfredi pasta with perfectly textured extra thin lasagna noodles tossed in tomato and lamb ragu that prompted Jun to ask herself, “Maybe I should try some lamb on my pastas at home going forward.” The ragu was lighter than we had expected, but the complexity of its flavor was spell-binding.
On our first visit, Jun and I were initially puzzled with the way the Dover sole was deep fried as we had never seen the fish fried that way before, but the kitchen did know what it was doing, as it turned out to be a hugely successful whole fish that, despite its appearance, was lightly battered. And yes, the honey and soy lacquered chicken (to our surprise, a whole chicken, not just a slab) was as good as it looked, with soft, tender texture that would rival any of the finest establishments we had been to. We were running out of rooms in our stomach by the time the chicken arrived but didn’t think twice about bringing the left-over home for a meal a few days later (and it still tasted marvelous). On our second visit, the main dishes all changed; we enjoyed both the competently beer battered soft shell crab accompanied by fried green tomato as well as the kitchen’s playful take on steak and eggs consisting of grilled rib eye and fried egg mayo, with a “sidecar” (yes, it’s literally a mini-car object) of crispy potatoes. The only “slight” miss at the restaurant during our first visit was dessert, a chocolate souffle that we were hoping to be as special as the savory dishes but didn’t have the luxurious decadence of the very best souffles out there in the world. Our second meal, on the other hand, had a dessert I still keep thinking about to this day, a decadent Vietnamese coffee caramel coconut crumble mochi brown butter cake, which tasted even better than its long name suggests. I was just stunned how delicious this mochi accompanied by buckwheat ice cream can be, and even though we were stuffed midway through the dessert, kept digging it until it was gone from the plate.
Even if it opened a while ago, Rose’s Luxury is still a perennially popular dining destination in DC, so planning in advance is always essential. If comfort is not the most important thing in your dining experience, I suggest grabbing seats at the chef’s counter in front of the kitchen where, despite the somewhat uncomfortable seating arrangements with narrow counters, you will get to see the entire kitchen staff in action. For an outstanding restaurant like this, I wished they had paid more attention to the wine list. On our first visit, there was no wine list and the young sommelier explained that the beverage menu is currently undergoing a revamp, and we were shown a few bottles to choose from. The restaurant did feature a more formal wine list next time we showed up, but I felt the list did not quite match the ingenuity of the food menu. Still, the cocktail list at the restaurant is worth exploring. Rose’s Luxury is as good as advertised and it deserves to be a must-visit restaurant to visit in DC if you care about eating good food. Jun and I will certainly be back in the near future.
KenScale: 8.75/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.75/10)
Address: 717 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003
Reservation via Resy