If gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, I’d been looking forward to sinning in Washington, D.C. weeks before I arrived in the city for my holiday trip. I travel for food (and culture and opera) so each trip includes a “splurge meal,” an extravagant meal that I wouldn’t find anywhere else. When I discovered the 24 course tasting menu dinner at Rogue 24 in Washington, D.C., it was exactly what I was looking for.
The Medieval priest Thomas Aquinas argued that there are six ways to commit the sin of gluttony beyond over-eating. He also included eating too soon, eating too expensively, too eagerly, daintily and wildly to be under the category of gluttonous sin. For the record, I’ve disagreed with Aquinas since I took Philosophy of Religion my freshman year in college and after reading his thoughts on gluttony, well, it solidified my distaste.
Rogue 24 is the culinary creation of chef RJ Cooper, a James Beard-winning chef from Detroit. He leads an impressive team in an open kitchen that sits at center stage of the restaurant, surrounded by tables of diners so everyone can see their innovative production in action. The barrier between what happens in the kitchen and what’s delivered to the diners is completely evaporated, making you feel like you’re all part of the performance.
Rogue 24 is hidden in a back alley’s back alley, giving it a sort of speakeasy-type feeling of accomplishment of simply finding the location. It’s all part of a fun excitement that surrounds the restaurant and once inside, the energy is bursting, especially with the glowing kitchen as the focal point.
I arrived at Rogue 24 on a normally-closed Sunday night, open only because of the surrounding holidays, so the restaurant was calm. This gave me the chance to chat with Chef Cooper and his colleagues as they delivered my dishes, as well as get to know my servers and fellow diners. It really created a community between us; by the end of the night, we all felt like friends. (Or perhaps it was just the wine talking!)
Rogue 24 only provides a tasting menu service in 16- and 24-course packages with optional wine pairings. With “go big or go home” as my mantra, I picked the 24-courses ($135) with the wine pairing ($85). The first courses were tiny bites followed by two-bite courses that slowly moved to heavier (but never much larger) dishes. An early favorite was the clam chowder in the mini bread bowl. (I’m a sucker for cute things.)
Courses progressed through fish to pigtail, a first for me. It was surprisingly delicious, like a slow-roasted rib. That was followed by a long favorite of mine, squab (aka pigeon) with grits and a fun take on veal :: veal “fibers” served in a mushroom.
Seamlessly the courses transitioned to a rich chestnut, pistachio soup. It was a good course to allow me to reflect on what I’d had so far and dream of what could possibly be to come. I should have known :: all that richness implied that desserts were on their way.
Cheekily named glacier, earth, rocks (pictured at the top of this post) and finally, happy endings, the desserts were rich, complex and deliciously sweet. I loved the play with textures and temperatures, using ice cream, ice and gelato to keep my taste buds alive, even after 20 courses.
The final courses, thankfully, were tiny house-made candies delivered in a wooden box. I’d been happily eating for hours, made friends with not only the chef and my servers but the girls at the table next to me. It was a truly wonderful night and one of the highlights of my trip. A 24-course dinner may be considered gluttony—therefore I may have sinned—but, damn, was it worth it!
Go to Rogue 24 for :: an unforgettable journey through food that you’ll never forget. Notes :: Reservations are required but easily made online here. Open Tuesday – Saturday, 6-11 p.m. It’s a bit tricky to find so check out these directions before you head there.