A rose by any other name

Greg Nash

Chef Aaron Silverman, a Rockville, Md., native, has brought his expertise home to Capitol Hill to open his first restaurant.

Silverman, who has worked around the country with famed chefs like David Chang, George Mendes and Sean Brock, realized two years ago that he wanted to open a place of his own.  

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“It was just time,” Silverman told The Hill. “I’ve been doing this for eight years for other people, and I just wanted to do it for myself.”

Drawn by the appeal of his family and friends, Silverman decided to move back to Washington.

“Five years ago, I’d never have wanted to move back, [but the restaurant scene]… is only getting better, and it’s an exciting time to be a part of it.” 

The result is Rose’s Luxury on Barracks Row, where the experience — everything from the cuisine to an open kitchen to freshly cut roses — is luring diners from Capitol Hill and beyond into this two-story establishment.

“Luxury’s not about servers with white gloves and four salad forks, it’s about how you feel, how you’re being treated,” the 31-year-old chef and owner said. “So we’re just trying to make people really happy.”

The menu features “American eclectic” culinary creations, such as pasta in warm strawberry sauce with ricotta and black pepper; fried eggplant layered with melted feta and honey; and smoked peach baby back ribs.  

Smaller dishes like these are divided into four categories: cold, warm and grill, pasta, and other goods. Larger plates of grilled pork chops and smoked brisket fall under family style. Vanilla ice cream with olive oil and sea salt is among the dessert options.

Inspiration for the menu is found in everything from past work experience, to eating out, to a mom’s chocolate chip cookies.

“There’s no rules. There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” Silverman said. “It’s just about being delicious and about putting good food on a plate.”

Soft-spoken and with tattoo-covered arms, Silverman says he did not always plan on becoming a chef.  As an undergrad at Northeastern University, he studied accounting and political science.

“I was miserable,” Silverman said. “I just decided — if I had tons of money, and I didn’t have to work, what would I do? And this was it.” So he graduated a year early and began working at 2941 Restaurant as he completed his training at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Md.

To prepare for the opening of the restaurant, Silverman and his team, which includes general manger Andy Erdmann and chef de cuisine Scott Muns, have been serving food at pop-up restaurants around the city. Silverman also raised more than $25,000 on Kickstarter, a website that allows people to raise money for various projects through crowd funding.  

The restaurant has the feel of an old row house.  

The first floor opens up into a covered courtyard with strings of garden lights hanging above the tables. A counter faces into an open kitchen. Upstairs, diners can take their pick among bar, table or love seat. There is also a roof deck (now used to grow flowers and herbs for the cocktails and dishes), where Silverman plans to place a picnic table.

The restaurant was named after Silverman’s grandmother. Rose, as described by her grandson, was a baker, a cook, a writer and the host of many dinner parties.  

“It’s always nice to name a restaurant after your grandmother, but it made sense,” he said.

Hints of rose (the flower) appear around the restaurant. White roses sit in the center of a bouquet on the family table, and bits of the flower’s petals serve as garnish on a chocolate dessert.

The menu is still expanding.  

Many dishes are still in the working phase. Such dishes include a roasted onion dressed in its own caramelized juices. “We’re working on it,” said Silverman. “It was good, but it wasn’t amazing, so we didn’t serve it.” Only “amazing” makes it onto the menu.

According to reviews, the public agrees.

Food critic Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post summed up his dining experience as “awesome” and said he expected to find the pork, habanero and lychee salad on future Best of 2013 lists.  On Yelp, the restaurant has a five-star rating.

Silverman, whose workdays range from 18 to 20 hours, is pleased with the praise. “Everyone’s happy. That’s what we wanted. So yeah, we’re happy.”