Monday, August 01, 2011

Rogue 24- The Journey, DC

I've been a fan of chef RJ Cooper for several years, and when he ran his original 24 course tasting menu at Vidalia, I had a reservation to go. However, a week before the date, he left Vidalia, and the experience never happened.
Now, over a year later, he's opened his own restaurant, Rogue 24, offering the 24 course tasting menu. Luckily, I was able to book a seat in the opening week. The layout of the restaurant is unique. The main kitchen and prep area is placed at the center of the restaurant under bright lights, allowing diners to watch everything going to make each of the courses. The staff also welcomed questions and interaction with them during the whole course of the meal.
Because I had to drive, I opted for the non-alcoholic drink pairings created by mixologist Derek Brown. When first seated, I was given a starter of watermelon water with fresh basil.
Courses 1/2
The 24 courses were broken down into groups of 3, with a paired drink to each group. For the first group, "snacks", I was served a simple, refreshing tonic with elderflower.
I first had a small cube of compressed watermelon topped with manchego cheese, bits of almond, a nib of cocoa, and a small piece of dried Jamón Ibérico.
The second course was an oyster shooter. They took a Stingray oyster (VA) and spherified it with a soft shell of mignonette sauce and Old Bay seasoning. It was then topped with a Snapperhead I.P.A. foam. This bite captured the tastes of eating raw oysters in the summer in the Midatlantic region.
Course 3
This was chef's take on Cig Kofte, a Turkish style tartare, using rose veal, housemade pickles, wheat germ, and sumac. The veal was very tender and had a wonderful flavor.
Course 4
The next set of courses were paired with a housemade ginger lemonade that had a strong ginger kick.
The 4th item on the menu was called the "Sea Floor". It was served in a very deep bowl, so the utensil for eating it was a set of forceps. It's components included sea urchin, seaweed, and sea water air. There also were edible "lava rocks".
Course 5
The next set of courses were tributes to chefs that inspired chef Cooper. The first was called an "Ode to O'connell" in recognition of chef Patrick O’Connell from The Inn at Little Washington and his "Tin of Sin". Served in a caviar tin, I had Osstra caviar with egg & crème fraiche served along with a baby cucumber with flower attached and cucumber air.
Course 6
This sixth course, a tribute to Chef Jeffrey Buben of Vidalia, was shrimp 'n' grits, bent & twisted. First, the shrimp was made into a slice of chorizo. Then, the grits, the part inspired by Chef Buben, was a corn milk pannacotta coated with a fried grit shell.

Course 7
For the next trio of items, my drink was a cherry phosphate soda.
The seventh course was called "Fowl Play". It arrived covered with a glass dome filled with smoke. I was instructed to lift up the dome, inhale the smoke, and then eat the item inside. Inside was a nest of "hay" with a cured partridge egg, chicken gizzard and skin.
Apologies to chef for the lousy pic of the egg & nest, but I was holding my breath in and only gave myself one shot before I ate it as I wanted to experience the smoke and the food at the same moment.
Course 8
I liked this course because it was a little down and dirty. I was handed a glass bowl which contained a fresh radish in what appeared to be "dirt". It was actually a combination of coffee, butter, and had a hazelnut in it as well. The server instructed me to grab the stalk by hand and rub it around on the inside and eat up.
It was fun seeing some fellow diners who were in suits get a little touchy about making a bit of a mess when eating this course.
Course 9
I was a fan of RJ's Pig & Pinot Fridays at Vidalia, and the ninth course reminded me of those dishes. He made a smoked hog jowl on top of caramel ice cream and pain perdu. I wished this was more than just a small bite.
Course 10
My next drink was a coriander carrot soda topped with crema.
The 10th course was a lavender meringue topped with a foie gras torchon that was frozen and then shaved on top. Under the meringue was a wild berry sauce.
Course 11
As an homage to the chef's Midwestern roots, the next dish highlighted corn in various forms. It had bits of grilled baby corn, popcorn, and a small tamale of vanilla corn custard served inside a husk of corn.
Course 12
Next up was a "salad" course that was Green Goddess dressing ice cream served with vegetable chips.
Course 13
One of my favorite drinks of the evening followed, a strawberry rhubarb drink with vinegar. It reminded me of drinking vinegar from Japan.
The start of the second half of the meal was an item called "liquid chicken" which reminded me of the foie gras cromesquis from Au Pied De Cochon. It was a chicken broth cooked into a shell with sheep's cheese and truffle, topped with a cepe mushroom. I was instructed to take the whole item into my mouth and bite down. The chicken broth bathed the inside of my mouth with all it's accompanying flavors.
Course 14
This was a representative dish of the season with the flavors of a Caprese salad. It was a beautiful green tiger heirloom tomato gently carved served with olive oil, balsamic vinegar spheres, ricotta cheese, apple and basil blossoms.
Course 15
This was another one of my favorite courses in how simple it was. This was a beet granita topped with char roe. There was a wonderful contrast of the the sweetness from the beet with the salinity of the roe.
Course 16
My next drink was a smoked cola with lime slice.
They called number 16 "What's up, Doc?" It had a piece of rabbit with baby carrots on a bed of edible "soil".
Course 17
This course was a take on vichyssoise. The soup was almond milk with truffle, and on the small skewer was violet potato, leeks.

Course 18
There was more playfulness with the 18th course. It was called "Not the Cheese" course. Using red aspic, headcheese was made to look like a small gouda wheel. It came with pretzel paper, pickled mustard seeds, and mayonnaise.

Course 19
Up next was a small bottle charged with CO2 of a garden vegetable summer consommé.
I then got another drink pairing. This time it was a delightful peach fizz.
Course 20
Chef Cooper brought course 20 to my table himself and described the preparation of the Border Springs lamb neck. He said it was braised for 18 hours, and topped with eggplant. It also came with a side of black garlic.
The lamb meat was so good, and smeared with a little of the black garlic, it was perfect.
Course 21
21 was the real cheese course. Pipe Dreams Fromage fresh goat cheese was presented on a piece of wood with olive paper, olive chunks, and a spherical olive.
Course 22
At this point, pastry chef Chris Ford took over for the last 3 dessert courses.
My final drink was an African tea, Rooibos Masala Chai, which was a first try for me. I loved it- it was a little spicy, and had a smooth flavor, with a little milk and honey, was great.
The first dessert item was seasonally inspired, using peaches from Toigo Orchards. There was a doughnut peach, and a bourbon gelee, topped with a sweet tea marshmallow noodle, basil blossoms and cream snow.
Course 23
The second dessert item was called Tennessee as the ingredients all came from there. The chocolate came from Olive & Sinclair Co. of Nashville, and it was fashioned into bark and dirt with liquid nitrogen. There was a dark chocolate cremeux and a quenelle of maplewood ice cream.
Course 24
The final course was 3 small bites: a lavender nitro chocolate truffle, a pecan crisp, and a cola gelee.

I waited over a year to try this tasting menu, and it surpassed my expectations especially with the participation of the mixologist and pastry chef. Next time, I plan to get the alcoholic beverage pairings.

922 N St NW (Rear/Blagden Alley)
Washington DC

1 comment:

uhockey said...

I made it to Vidalia24 right when it started - it still ranks as one of the 5 best meals of my life. No small feat. I'm heading to Rogue in just over a month and just happened upon your blog - I have no doubt it will be special, RJ is a very talented man.