Miche­lin gives DC a pres­ti­gious vote of culi­nary con­fi­dence

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

It’s a Wed­nes­day night and Rose’s Lux­ury won’t open for nearly an­other hour, but a line is al­ready snaking out from un­der the brightly col­ored awning of one of Wash­ing­ton’s buzzi­est restau­rants. The flock of ea­ger din­ers is a tes­ta­ment to the cap­i­tal city’s new­found foodie street cred, which grabbed the at­ten­tion of in­ter­na­tional culi­nary tastemak­ers who are set to pub­lish their first Miche­lin guide to the city Oc­to­ber 13.

“Ev­ery time I come here there is some­thing new and ex­cit­ing,” said Sandy Di­a­mond, a perky re­tiree who with her daugh­ter made a pil­grim­age to the sto­ried restau­rant from her ru­ral Ver­mont home. “Ev­ery­thing is al­ways a new ex­pe­ri­ence for your taste buds.” The white door trimmed in for­est green fi­nally opens and the pa­tient epi­cures stream in to the spa­cious din­ing room with walls of weath­ered brick, which looks into the open kitchen.

A culi­nary king­dom

Rose’s Lux­ury opened in late 2013 to grand fan­fare, be­com­ing an in­stant sen­sa­tion on the city’s food­scape. The restau­rant opened with just 20 em­ploy­ees, a pay­roll that quickly jumped to 65. “We had to grow very quickly,” said owner Aaron Sil­ver­man, 34, who worked in New York and the south­ern city Charleston be­fore re­turn­ing home to open his first restau­rant. A no-reser­va­tions eatery fea­tur­ing rea­son­ably priced con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can cui­sine with an in­ter­na­tional spin, Rose’s is known for its 13-dol­lar plate of spaghetti bathed in a spicy tomato sauce that is tem­pered by a sweet dose of straw­ber­ries.

In feats of en­durance many din­ers wait for hours to snag a seat at one of the honey-stained wood ta­bles-but one home­town celebrity man­aged to skip the long line. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama cel­e­brated his 54th birth­day last year at the small-plates restau­rant, though the restau­rant kept mum on what the com­man­der-in-chief or­dered. Buoyed by the suc­cess of his first gas­tro­nomic ven­ture, Sil­ver­man has be­gun build­ing a small king­dom of DC restau­rants. Next door to Rose’s sits its higher-end spinoff Pineap­ple and Pearls.

Ru­mor has it the sib­ling restau­rant that opened in April is in the run­ning for a two-star rat­ing from Miche­lin’s ar­biters of haute cui­sine. The $250-dol­lar menu that fea­tures more than a dozen cour­ses in­cludes a yo­gurt-filled bon­bon sit­ting atop a slot­ted ab­sinthe spoon-bal­anced over a glass of fen­nel juice, cel­ery, green ap­ple and ab­sinthe-and a tart fea­tur­ing the del­i­cate “fairy tale” va­ri­ety of egg­plants.

‘Capi­tol Hill game changer’

Bon Ap­petit, one of Amer­ica’s lead­ing food mag­a­zines, re­cently dubbed Rose’s Lux­ury a “Capi­tol Hill game changer”-two years af­ter nam­ing the spot Amer­ica’s top new restau­rant, a ma­jor boost for Wash­ing­ton’s gas­tro­nomic no­to­ri­ety. Long con­sid­ered a culi­nary waste­land of power lunches and bland steak­houses, the US cap­i­tal city has seen its pop­u­lar­ity among food­ies sky­rocket in re­cent years. “The DC scene is just grow­ing so much,” Sil­ver­man said, sport­ing a chef’s smock over his tat­tooed arms. “It’s so ex­cit­ing-ev­ery­body is ex­cited about it.”

He at­tributes Wash­ing­ton’s evo­lu­tion of taste to an in­flux of young peo­ple, which is no­tice­able in the newly bustling Capi­tol Hill neigh­bor­hood, where he opened his restau­rants. Thanks to the city’s epi­curean am­bi­tion it will now be­come the fourth US city-join­ing New York, Chicago and San Fran­cisco-to cur­rently wear the Miche­lin badge of honor. “Wash­ing­ton chefs who have left and cooked around the world have come back to Wash­ing­ton,” said Michael El­lis, Miche­lin’s in­ter­na­tional di­rec­tor. “They have been in­cor­po­rat­ing new types of prod­ucts, new types of sea­son­ings, new types of cook­ing tech­niques.” “[They] have re­ally made the Wash­ing­ton din­ing scene one of the most ex­cit­ing in the United States to­day.”

Gas­tro­nomic fear­less­ness

Wash­ing­ton’s cir­cle of elite eaters wel­comed the news that Miche­lin’s team of anony­mous in­spec­tors had de­scended on the city. Among them is Tom Si­et­sema, The Wash­ing­ton Post news­pa­per’s food critic. “It’s great that this revered guide is com­ing,” Si­et­sema said. “There is this fear­less­ness in Wash­ing­ton-that one can’t have in, say, San Fran­cisco or New York-where the stakes are so high.” He also cred­its the city’s slightly lower rents-in neigh­bor­hoods pre­vi­ously con­sid­ered to be dan­ger­ous-as help­ing to usher in the city’s nascent restau­rant scene.

“It’s not in­ex­pen­sive to open a restau­rant, but it’s cer­tainly eas­ier,” Si­et­sema said. Wash­ing­ton culi­nary vet­eran Ashok Ba­jaj opened his first restau­rant in 1988, as the city was gearing up to in­au­gu­rate Pres­i­dent Ge­orge HW Bush. Since then he has hosted the Clin­tons, Madeleine Al­bright and Nel­son Man­dela at his half-a-dozen din­ing es­tab­lish­ments. One of Ba­jaj’s restau­rants Rasika is among the fron­trun­ners vy­ing for a Miche­lin star. When he landed in DC, the sea­soned restau­ran­teur said that din­ing es­tab­lish­ments in the then-quiet cap­i­tal were con­cen­trated in the area im­me­di­ately sur­round­ing the White House. “Now, peo­ple are break­ing bound­aries, they’re go­ing to un­known places in the city to open restau­rants,” he said. “For the Miche­lin guide to en­dorse us, to re­view our restau­rants in the city-it means a lot.” “We have come a long way.” — AFP

Pink um­brel­las dec­o­rate the Le­banese Min­istry of Pub­lic Health in the cap­i­tal Beirut as part of a na­tional cam­paign for the pub­lic aware­ness of breast cancer. — AFP

A kitchen staffer pre­pares ap­pe­tiz­ers in the kitchen of the Pineap­ple and Pearls restau­rant. — AFP pho­tos

Chef Aaron Sil­ver­man, owner of Rose’s Lux­ury and Pineap­ple and Pearls restau­rants, poses in­side Pineap­ple And Pearls’ kitchen in Wash­ing­ton, DC.

An egg­plant tart is on dis­play at the Pineap­ple and Pearls restau­rant.

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