Friday, April 6, 2012

Rogue 24 - 04/03/2012

Blagden Alley
1234 9th St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 408-9724

Part restaurant part art exhibition, Rogue 24 is Chef RJ Cooper's break from traditional fine dining. The menu has a definite modernist feel, presenting seasonal flavors with re-imagined textures and presentations. The restaurant received mixed reviews to start and though not everyone agrees with Chef Cooper's vision, its impossible to deny his passion, I mean the man was working the night before he was scheduled for open heart surgery.

After 24 years in the industry, RJ Cooper has amassed a resume that any chef would envy. His experience ranges from Southern cooking in Atlanta to a turn at Eric Ripert's Le Bernardin. Cooper moved to the DC area to take over the reins at The Oval Room and then spent six years as the CdC at Vidalia where he won a James Beard award in 2007 for best Mid-Atlantic Chef. As I mentioned earlier, the chef underwent surgery on January 11 to correct his hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. During his 10 week recovery period, a number of other culinary luminaries including Brian Voltaggio and Jose Andres took turns running the kitchen at Rogue 24. So if a man is judged by the company he keeps, then RJ Cooper must be nothing less than a world-class chef.

Located smack dab in the middle of an alley, Rogue 24's location isn't exactly the most inviting setting, but certainly in keeping with Cooper's iconoclastic bent. The interior has a similar urban practicality with a large exhibition kitchen dominates the center of the dining room, giving every seat in the house an unobstructed view of the action.

snacks / pig skin / radish / tomato
jimmy nitro / dancing pines rum / pineapple & coconut snow / ginger / lime
The meal started out with three playful snacks, first a crisp delightfully bitter French breakfast radish with "soil" made of cocoa and nuts. Next up a tomato, Parmesan, and basil "Oreo," the tiny disk carries a powerful punch of cheese with deliciously bright zestiness. The final snack was dubbed "Detroit BBQ" and consists of a crisp savory pork rind with mild creamy Wonder bread espuma. The nitro was inspired by the piƱa colada but is so much more than its predecessor. The cocktail has the characteristically sweet tropical flavor complimented by a tart syrupy cherry liqueur as well as tiny darts of acidity from the frozen lime cells. The cocktail was so good that I forgot to save some for the next two courses.

ossetra / cauliflower / apple / bubbles
jimmy nitro / dancing pines rum / pineapple & coconut snow / ginger / lime
A bit monolithic, the second course consisted of a smooth creamy base panna cotta of cauliflower. The light nutty sweetness is periodically punctuated by the salinity of caviar and the sweet twang of the apple cider foam, but they weren't quite potent enough.

red cabbage / smoked mustard / ice fungus
jimmy nitro / dancing pines rum / pineapple & coconut snow / ginger / lime
The next course brought the meal right back on track. The thick red soup was a tangy light gazpacho made from red cabbage. Mustard features prominently in this dish in the form of tangy seeds and a seductive ice cream. The "snow mushroom" reminded me of the white wood ear mushroom, not really big on flavor but a deft textural element akin to soft cartilage.

uni / squid ink / seaweed / clamato / yeast
abbazia di novacella / keer / alto adige / it / '10
Fresh uni is always a great way to start a course. The duet of pickled hijiki and wakame were natural additions, effortlessly augmenting the urchin's enticing salinity. The squid ink tapioca has a complimentary flavor as well as a satisfying crunch. I was surprised to find that the clamato's a mix of tomato and brakish salnity adds rough edge that actually makes the entire dish better.

gyro / tzatziki / butter lettuce / cucumber
abbazia di novacella / keer / alto adige / it / '10
After a brief trip to Japan, we changed gears and headed to Greece for the next course. Despite being unabashedly raw, the lamb tartare is spiced in such a way to give it a savory gravitas while the yogurt provides a tart contrast that cuts through the richness of the meat. The duo is topped with a cucumber blossom and wrapped in lettuce which together add the right level of vegetal succulence to the mix.

speckled trout / roe / nasturtium / horseradish / white chocolate
abbazia di novacella / keer / alto adige / it / '10
Fish parfait doesn't sound very appetizing but the bold flavor and smooth velvety texture was almost like a smoked triple cream cheese. Despite its fairly strong flavor, the parfait played well with others resulting in a verdant herbaceousness from the nasturtium and an airy vanilla sweetness from the chocolate foam.

egg / migas / tuna spine / botarga
tripel dubbel / high west double rye / gran classico / saxo blonde ale
I've always loved poached egg and Cooper does a 63° egg as well as anyone else, and the jellied white surrounds a still runny yolk. A small bath of tuna marrow dashi infuses the egg with an enchanting fishy sapor as well as providing a mixing agent for the creamy yolk. The egg is topped with a crunchy layer of cocoa, tomato, and hazelnut crumbs giving the silken egg a coarse outer coating. Paired with this egg was a delightful beer cocktail, the light flavors of a tripel and blonde are apparent but complimented by a fortified heat from the rye.

yogurt / eggplant / sumac / benne
tripel dubbel / high west double rye / gran classico / saxo blonde ale
This dish was described as baba ghanoush, a Levantine dish of eggplant mixed with olive oil and other seasonings. The dish is simultaneously smoky and sour laced with the sumac which augments the flavor of the yogurt with its own sour tang.

snails / benton's gelee / potato / duxelles
tripel dubbel / high west double rye / gran classico / saxo blonde ale
These might be the best snails that I've ever eaten, certainly they were among the tenderest and the accompaniment of basil was a refreshing change from the typical garlic and butter. A gelee of stock made from 30 month aged ham adds a lusty richness but it is the steady savor of the potato that I found particularly apt with the snails.

branzino / spinach / brown butter / tapioca
mouton noir "love drunk" rose / chardonna & pinot noir / mcminnville / or / '10
Despite my general dislike for Branzino, I was still able to appreciate this dish. The fish had the characteristic lean firmness but the heady brown butter deftly fills the void. The green streak of spinach conveys a clear bitter note and the tapioca has a savory crunch reminiscent of a shrimp chip.

crab / chawanmushi / jasmine / bitter orange
mouton noir "love drunk" rose / chardonna & pinot noir / mcminnville / or / '10
Another wonderfully delicate course. The chilled crab has a wonderfully pure sweet note heightened by the stinging acidity of fresh blood orange. The egg and puffed forbidden rice provide actual starch and heft but it is the illusory weight of the fragrant jasmine air that was most entertaining.

foraged / soil / cedar / blossoms
mouton noir "love drunk" rose / chardonna & pinot noir / mcminnville / or / '10
The unbelievably fresh greens: pea shoots, wood sorell, and green almonds, is accompanied by a soil again made from chocolate and nuts. The salad is crisp and light, conveying a complex yet harmonious mix of floral, grassy, bitter, and tart. The rose was a bit dry and lean on its own but was wonderfully expressive taken with the astringency of the salad.

state of the onion
april showers / boyd & blair vodka / cucumber / menthe verveine / dolin dry
Despite also being completely vegetarian, this dish couldn't be more different from the previous one. The dainty ravioli is stuffed with a lusty filling of grilled cipollinis. Green garlic, baby ramps, and chive blossoms add complimentary touches that elevate the already delicious ravioli. When I first started drinking, citrus and cucumber were my go to ingredients so it was nice to see them make an appearance here and the use of green tea was simply icing on the cake. The result is a direct yet multifaceted affair, simultaneously sweet, tart, bitter and aromatic; another fantastic cocktail pairing.

celeriac / razor clam / bacon
april showers / boyd & blair vodka / cucumber / menthe verveine / dolin dry
Healthy isn't typically a word that I like to use when describing my dining adventures but its hard to think of celery tofu as anything but. The clear note of bitter celery is obvious but taken with the bacon and clam, the dish has a delightful chowder-like flavor profile. I just wish the clams were more apparent texturally to contrast the tenderness of the tofu.

lobster roll / 2012
april showers / boyd & blair vodka / cucumber / menthe verveine / dolin dry
This consists of two distinct parts, a lobster bisque espuma, and an ovalette paper seasoned with dehydrated roe and sugar. Following the kitchen's instructions I first took a bite of the espuma, concentrated lobster goodness with a dense creamy texture. Next came the paper, the savory sweet flavor profile was reminiscent of an airy Japanese rice cracker. The dish ended with another bite of silky espuma which conveyed markedly harsher brine after the paper.

foie gras / lavender / early strawberries
bieler "lou ven tou" / grenach & syrah / provence / fr / '10
Delicate is not typically a word I associate with foie, but this was just that. The shaved foie's sensation of richness is not accompanied by the characteristic weight of larger pieces of foie. The accompaniments of lavender and strawberry lean toward the sweeter side but are delicate enough that they don't overwhelm the liver.

rabbit / orange / pecan / squash
bieler "lou ven tou" / grenach & syrah / provence / fr / '10
The rabbit is presented two ways, a lightly dry loin and a striking mousseline. The mousse is seductively smooth with the rich flavor of rabbit. A bit of sage sets the mousse of perfectly while the soil adds a nutty crunch to compliment the meaty sapor of the rabbit.

marrow / artichoke / olive oil / black parsley
bieler "lou ven tou" / grenach & syrah / provence / fr / '10
I was a bit wary of the marrow panna cotta, but the application of red wine deftly tempers the richness. The vegetal starchiness of the artichoke is also apparent but sadly the sliver of Wagyu beef was completely overwhelmed.

pigeon / petits pois
owen roe "red" / merlot, cabernet franc & cabernet sauvignon / yakima / or / '09
This was my second time having sous vided squab this week and it was no less tantalizing than the first. The breast is delicious enough on its own but the pea sprouts have such a contrasting astringency that its hard not to appreciate the combination. The tiny sliver of pigeon heart has an even more potent essence of game bird, like a slightly chewy dark meat.

brisket / kale / mushrooms / foyot
owen roe "red" / merlot, cabernet franc & cabernet sauvignon / yakima / or / '09
The final savory was a cuboid of brisket covered in spinach powder. The meat is typically dense but its hard not to enjoy the meaty twang of the foyot juxtaposed against the ethereal bitterness of the greens and the earthy punch of the mushroom chicharron.

pecorino blue / kumquat / almond / apple
owen roe "red" / merlot, cabernet franc & cabernet sauvignon / yakima / or / '09
Pecorino refers to a popular family of sheep's milk cheese. Typically a hard cheese, this blue was substantially softer like butter left out to sit. The flavor is fairly tame for a blue, with delicious notes of nuts and sweet cream balancing the pungent flavor of the mold. Sugar coated nuts enhance the cheese's flavor while the kumquat cleans the cheese of the palate with its brazen acidity.

yuzu / black sesame / mango / curry
bodegas dios baco / pedro ximenes / sherry / xeres / sp / '70
The first dessert has clear Japanese influences, the scintillating flavor of yuzu is a natural companion to the nutty black sesame cake while the sheer textural variety gives the simple duo a sense of intricacy and finesse. Despite having already eaten 21 courses, I found myself craving more of this course.

coffee / cream / caramel / hazelnut
bodegas dios baco / pedro ximenes / sherry / xeres / sp / '70
Where the last dessert was a rapier, this was more like a warhammer. The decadent mixture of coffee, chocolate, and caramel is darkly sweet is immensely satisfying while the shades of nuts and salt add a touch of maturity to the childlike majesty of the chocolate

happy endings / little things / small bites
bodegas dios baco / pedro ximenes / sherry / xeres / sp / '70
The final course was composed of 5 small treats: a salted caramel, pate de fruit, root beer float, chocolate orange bonbon, and peanut cluster. Despite having several more interesting candies on the plate, my favorite was the humble salted caramel.

I was fortunate to come after Cooper had returned to service as I wanted to experience his cuisine undiluted by another's hand and the experience more than lived up to my expectations. The food is elegantly crafted, beautifully presented, intricately cerebral and most importantly: delicious. I understand Cooper's style might not appeal to everyone, but if you do enjoy contemporary cuisine then do yourself a favor and "Go Rogue".


Rodzilla said...

It seems you're finding all the spots with tuna spinal fluid. Great photos, I'm really glad they relaxed on the initial photography restrictions.

Epicuryan said...

I totally wasn't expecting more tuna spinal fluid but it was awesome especially the way it flavored the egg. I think they realized people were gonna sneak pics anyway and just gave up on enforcing the photo ban.

Clint said...

Beautiful pics. Do they still have the two page contract that you have to sign before dining?