YIWEN HU/THE HOYA Eastern Market is a well-known destination for food lovers and even so, Rose’s Luxury stands out among the crowd. The dishes at this upscale diner feature bold flavor combinations that never fail to impress.
YIWEN HU/THE HOYA
Eastern Market is a well-known destination for food lovers and even so, Rose’s Luxury stands out among the crowd. The dishes at this upscale diner feature bold flavor combinations that never fail to impress.

★★★★★

$$$

At just 20 past 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, still 40 minutes before Rose’s Luxury opened its door, a line of well over 30 people had already formed in front of the neighborhood favorite in Eastern Market.

Among the string of restaurants along the Barracks Row, this tiny and quaint-looking diner arguably enjoys the most popularity.Parties of over four almost always need to arrive an hour before the restaurant starts serving dinner to avoid another three, or even five, hours of waiting. Patrons both from and outside the area flock to 717 8th St. SE, to taste for themselves whether or not Rose’s Luxury lives up to the neon “Awesome” sign hanging on its back wall.

With all the hype on the Internet, it’s easy to wonder if the quality of the food at Rose’s Luxury has been exaggerated; with over half an hour of waiting in line, the anticipation raises even higher.

However, doubts dissipate as soon as the interior of the diner comes into sight — the bricks on the wall and the lanterns overhead create a familial atmosphere, while the art pieces add an aesthetic and elegant appeal to the space.

Depending upon availability and preference, patrons are seated in one of the four dining areas: the patio, which is pleasant on nice days; the front salon, where larger parties are usually accommodated; the bar, which is located in front of the open kitchen; and the back salon under the glass roof. In fact, many a “veteran” patron purposefully asks to be seated on the stools in order to enjoy the most well-paced dining experience and to engage in lively conversations with the team working the culinary magic.

Unless orders of raw bar items have been placed, dinners at Rose’s usually start with a loaf of challah. The golden-crusted bread, always fresh out of the oven, infuses the air with an irresistible aroma. When peeled into pieces, dipped in honey and spread with a thin layer of sesame-sprinkled butter, the warm Challah alone already exceeds every expectation one might have had for the restaurant.

Although the menu at Rose’s Luxury changes on a seasonal basis, there are nonetheless several time-honored signature dishes, one of which is the pork sausage habanero and lychee salad ($13). Present in the cute white bowl are the stated ingredients, as well as sour cream, slices of red onions and a variety of spices. Customers are encouraged to mix everything up and to eat the salad straight from the bowl. This way, all of the flavors can be savored at once: the crunchy lychee halves, the silky sour cream, the spicy onions, the savory sausages. Not a single layer of taste is lost.

Here at Rose’s Luxury, ingredients are mixed and matched in surprising combinations. Among the seasonal options on the list of cold dishes, the Malpeque oysters with green apple and wasabi granita ($3 each) have found favor both among the diners and the wait staff. Lying on a bed of shredded ice, the oysters come in their teardrop-shaped half shells. Known for their tender texture and briny taste, the oysters have a sweet finish that is complemented by the refreshing green wasabi. On the other hand, the caramelized cauliflower, greek yogurt and some other stuff ($13) has the power to turn a stout meat-lover into a pious vegetarian. Any personal opinion on cauliflowers is bound to change after just one bite into the crispy veggie blossom; aversion will subside and become a newfound love.

Pasta is another one of Rose’s many renowned house specialties. The mezze rigatoni with Parmesan cream and truffled breadcrumbs ($12) is the paradise for cream-and-cheese lovers. When paired with white truffles ($20 a portion), the flavor escalates. It might not bring one to his knees, but it is certainly capable of driving one to the verge of shedding tears of joy. In comparison, the classic cacio e pepe ($13), though loyal to the traditional rendition and undeniably delicious, is nevertheless eclipsed by the rigatoni.

The chef’s ingenuity does not end with the main dishes. The famous foie gras french toast with cinnamon crumb and ice cream ($8) again testifies to the limitless creation of Rose’s Luxury. As strange and heavy as it sounds, the actual plate is a perfect harmony of sweet and savory, hot and cold. For those with a penchant for a minty flavor, the lighter English pea cake with mint curd and pistachio crunch ($8) might be an ideal alternative to conclude the meal.

Cozy, welcoming, incredible, unique, awe-inspiring — perhaps not enough adjectives can ever suffice to describe a dinner at Rose’s. Truly, as what is written on top of the menu, one can only “eat, go home, come back tomorrow.”

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