Lamb neck with fermented garlic is one of many dishes diners may find at Rogue 24.
At chef RJ Cooper’s ambitious new tasting menu restaurant, the adventure begins before you even take a single bite. To get there, you go down a quiet side street near the convention center and turn into an alleyway that looks like it’s seen some shady deals. Coming around a corner at the end, you find yourself in front of a wood facade. Graffiti of a knife superimposed on a wishbone seems to float above the door. Welcome to Rogue 24.
Vision: “When you put chefs and restaurants in a box and categorize them, it stifles creativity,” Cooper says. “Open up the box and say, ‘Do whatever you want,’ and the possibilities become endless.” With that as his mantra, the James Beard Award-winning chef has created a dinner experience that prides itself on its scope and vision.
Eats: The menu constantly evolves, so no two meals will be alike. No matter what is served, Cooper strives to create cuisine that is as playful as it is flavorful. Case in point is the Fowl Play: a salt-cured quail’s egg laid in a nest made with golden threads of fried corn silk. On top rest two slivers of duck gizzard ham, dehydrated chicken skin cracklins and a scattered bouquet of miniature fresh flowers. The What’s Up, Doc? places a loin of rabbit in a small pool of carrot juice infused with cardamom, coriander seed, fennel and star anise. Nearby there’s a sprinkling of “soil” (ground pecan, dark chocolate cocoa powder, barley and coffee), sheep’s milk yogurt spiked with carrot juice, a relish made with carrot top stems, a tiny salad of carrot top leaves and a sprinkle of carrot dust. Despite the complexity of the dishes, Cooper says he doesn’t want to do food that’s overly cerebral. “If you have to think too much about what you’re eating, then the experience isn’t in the taste buds; it’s in the mind,” he says.
Drinks: The Columbia Room’s Derek Brown designed the cocktails here. His inventive and imaginative creations match Cooper’s cuisine well. The Three Martini Lunch ($16) presents three small glasses filled with clear liquids, which turn out to be a martini, a daiquiri and a Manhattan. Non-alcoholic options include Elderflower & Tonic ($10) and Hickory-Smoked Cola ($10).
In the Details
When making reservations, diners choose between the 24-course “Journey” ($175 with alcoholic beverage pairings, $120 without) or the 16-course “Progression” ($145 with pairings, $100 without). Rogue 24 also houses a 14-seat salon — no reservations required — where guests can order cocktails and a la carte small plates culled from the evening’s menu.
922 N St. NW (rear entrance); 202-408-9724, Rogue24.com.