On Saturday night, despite Hurricane Irene barreling towards us, Scott and I got on the metro and went to dinner at Rogue 24. If you follow the Washington, D.C. restaurant scene, you know that Rogue 24 has had some controversy since opening a few weeks ago regarding their reservation contract. Due to the concept of Rogue 24, which is a small space that only serves two tasting menus, they implemented a “strict” cancellation policy in order to prevent last minute cancellations and empty tables. It isn’t exactly a restaurant you would walk into without a reservation. Personally, I had no problem with the contract, especially because it also asked for information regarding allergies and food preferences (vegetarian, vegan, etc) so that RJ Cooper, the chef, can make sure everyone has an amazing meal.
I had been looking forward to this meal for weeks, and was not going to let a little hurricane ruin my time. So maybe I was a little soaked because an umbrella doesn’t help much when it is raining sideways, and my hair may have been a mess. (For anyone considering getting bangs- they SUCK in the rain because there is pretty much no way to keep them from looking like a mess!) Now, you also have to imagine the location: it is a few blocks from the convention center, off of N St. You have to turn down a really sketchy looking alley. Scott loves to talk about all the random places I make him go in the name of food and drink.
We arrived for our reservations a little early, so we had cocktails in the lounge. Naturally, I had the “Irene” in honor of the lovely weather, which was a take on the classic hurricane. It was delicious and clearly well thought out and hand made. Scott had something with bourbon (I think) and smoked cola, which he loved. Before we headed into the main part of the restaurant for dinner, we were also given a small non-alcoholic cocktail. It was about the size of a shot glass, and tasted like watermelon. If you are ever in the neighborhood, I recommend stopping into the lounge for a drink. The space is very nice, with a little bit of a retro feel.
Then we were brought into the main part of the restaurant. The kitchen is smack in the middle, with tables on either side. Right when you walk in is a little four-seat bar that butts up against the dessert station. We got to sit there, and it was really cool to watch the pastry Chef, Chris Ford, work his magic. I had tried really hard to avoid learning what exactly was on the menu, although it was pretty impossible not to hear about a few of the bites. Scott and I had the 24 course menu with the pairings, which included a small cocktail, several wines, a cider, and a beer. They also offer a 16 course tasting.
When Scott and I were discussing the meal early on, I said that it was probably not necessarily going to be the best food we have ever had, but it would certainly be food we had NEVER had before, and my assessment turned out to be spot on. Of course, if you find molecular gastronomy pretentious and hipster-y, Rogue 24 is not for you. If you want to try a place that has taken food to a different level, and used techniques that are not done every day, and that you probably (unless you have a lot of specialized tools and ingredients) could never make at home, then you would probably enjoy Rogue 24.
I don’t want to go into every single course, because there were just so many, so I will tell you a little about some of my favorites, and some of my least favorites (which makes me kind of feel like a judge on Top Chef). Before I do that, I just want to make a note about the service: it was impeccable. Every single time I got up to use the restroom, which if you know me is pretty often, I came back to my napkin folded nicely and someone to pull out my chair and push it back in. Plates were removed promptly, but I never felt rushed. We had clean silverware for every course. The sommelier was entertaining and explained every pairing clearly, and engaged in conversation. RJ Cooper was a jovial presence in the dining room. I wish every restaurant had service like Rogue 24. Also, I want someone at work to pull out my chair for me all the time.
As far as the things I didn’t like go, most of them are on that list because I don’t like olives. Scott thought everything with the olives was good, and I’m sure they were, but I just couldn’t get past the olive-ness of them. It is actually sort of hard to put anything else in the category of “didn’t like” because there really wasn’t anything else that I didn’t like. Some of the things were less memorable than others, but with 24 courses that is understandable. I wasn’t a huge fan of the foie gras, but I think that is because it was served very cold and shaved, and I prefer room temperature or warm foie gras. The desserts were good at the time, but not particularly memorable, which may also have to do with the amount of alcohol consumed by the time you get to those courses. My favorite of the three was the Tennessee, which had chocolate, shaved cream, and “wood and dirt”.
On the other hand, my favorite courses were pretty varied. I really enjoyed the cracklins with kimchi, sesame and soy, the “What’s up Doc”, with rabbit, carrots and a sauce made out of the carrot tops, and the Garden Mosaic with green goddess ice cream. But my absolute favorites have a four way tie going on. One of the things I loved was the caprese salad. Of course this was no ordinary caprese salad. The tomatoes were perfect specimens, and they were served with balsamic power and balsamic soaked roe. The next one I loved was the “Hail Buben”- a fried ball of grits that was crunchy on the outside and liquid on the inside, with shrimp that was made into a kind of chorizo and sliced thinly. The “Fowl Play”, which came out in a little glass domed dish, was made of edible hay topped with chicken gizzards and a partridge egg. When you open the dome, a smoky vapor is released that has lightly permeated the entire dish. Finally, the “Hog Jowl”, which was most definitely Scott’s favorite part of the meal and one of my top dishes, was just divine. From the perfectly cooked pork, to the caramelized onion gelato, it was a perfect symphony of pork-yness.
If you are adventurous, and have some money to spend, Rogue 24 is definitely worth the trip. I hope that the menu changes enough in the future that a return trip is worth it.