Welcome to One Day In, a riff on Eater's One Year In series, which explores a restaurant's first day of business. For this edition, Rose's Luxury's Aaron Silverman talked to Eater yesterday about how things went on opening night.
Rose's Luxury [Photos: R. Lopez]
What can go wrong in a day? Well, for Chef Aaron Silverman, it was an $8,000 sound system that broke just minutes before his restaurant, Rose's Luxury, opened on Capitol Hill's Barracks Row on Wednesday. Without music, dinner was a bit quieter than expected, and now there's an expensive bill pending for the fix, Silverman said.
But sound system or not, a lot of buzz has been building about this chef, who hails from David Chang's Momofuku in New York and Sean Brock's McCrady's Restaurant in Charleston. Last week, Brock even made an appearance at Rose's Luxury to test out the menu during a soft opening.
While Silverman is still dealing with contractors and last minute kitchen alterations, he said the opening went a lot more smoothly than others in the past. One day in, the staff is focused on getting into an organized workflow, and maybe sooner or later, getting some sleep.
When did you go to bed Wednesday night? And, what time did you wake up Thursday morning?
I think I slept walk through the entire night. I went to bed at 4 a.m., and I woke up at 6:30 a.m. [Thursday].
Wow. So you're obviously tired. What has been the most exciting thing to happen in the last 24-hours?
Seeing people have a good time. There's so many problems and issues, and you only get a few split seconds to see people having a good time. Friends and family, neighbors, people who have been waiting to come check us out, I got to see them happy. That's why we do this ... the first night, we had a lot of people we knew, but also a lot of neighborhood people that we didn't.
Any notable food industry people swing by opening night?
Not yesterday, but Sean Brock stopped in last week. He came in on a soft opening, and he was tweeting good things, which is always nice. He was in town for an event and called to say he was coming in. Both me and my sous chef worked for him, and we're very fond of him. It was pretty awesome to have him here. He came with one of his guys from McCrady's.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced Wednesday?
Well, five minutes before our service started, all our speakers and circuits blew. There was no music all night. It's $8,000 worth of equipment that no longer works. But hey, it wasn't a flood; it wasn't a leak. I'm just glad it wasn't any more disastrous than that. I'm actually shocked it wasn't more disastrous. My first day at Jovia in New York, we had a fire, a flood, an electrical fire; all within three hours.
Wow, so not as bad as that, I guess. What about the service and crowd rush?
We actually did pretty good. Our staff is well trained and our GM is great. We hired a good staff and compared to most openings — at least for me — it was pretty damn smooth. But, we still haven't put out all of our tables yet. We still have a few more to set-up.
Yeah, so tell me, are all parts of the restaurant open right now?
The bar upstairs is open, and we should have tables set-up there next week. And, right now we just opened up the big table in the garage toward the far back. We'll be opening up the kitchen counter space and bar in a few days. Actually, that bar space is still drying. They just epoxied it. And, the roof garden will be open depending on the season.
Tell me a little bit about the people you're working with.
Scott Muns is running the kitchen and came to us from Volt. We also worked together at 2941 — my first cooking job — and we share a similar "old-school" mentality. B.J. Lieberman is our sous chef and is originally from Northern Virginia, although he's lived in Charleston for a while and worked in kitchens at McCrady's and Husk. Kosta Troupos is a partner, and he's an old childhood friend, who's worked in restaurants his entire life. And, then there's Andy Erdmann who worked at Uchi and Uchiko in Austin. He's working as our general manager.
This is your first restaurant opening in DC. You have a lot of kitchen experience. Are you pulling from those past experiences?
Honestly, there are no rules. We are not trying to be anything in particular. We're not trying to be an American restaurant, a modern restaurant — we're just trying to do something awesome. It's about showing people a good time ... I don't see this as a work of art that we're trying to sell to people. They're coming here to have a good time, and it's our job to show them a good time. How that ties into the menu? There is no rhyme or reason to it, except that everything has to be enjoyable and awesome. And, it allows us a lot of creative freedom when we don't categorize ourselves.
You guys don't have a reservation system. Do you have plans to take reservations?
We have a pretty decent bar upstairs. If there's a wait, you can order the whole menu upstairs. Eventually, we will probably take some reservations. Again, we are in the business of making people happy, and people sometimes want to do that.
A lot of your food items require a lot of preparation. Tell us about that.
For some things, like our vinegars, for sure. We're not doing things like burgers and fries, although maybe we will someday. But, we're not trying to impress guests with how we've done something or showing-off our techniques. We don't want to get bored, so we use longer processes and put a lot of thought in some dishes, but our goal is to make them as simple and approachable for guests as possible ... we're not trying to provide a show. We're trying to provide dinner. An awesome dinner. And, if we can make it exciting and interesting at the same time, that's fine, but at the end of the day it's still dinner.
Tell us about the neighborhood. You live on Capitol Hill. How are you connected to it?
Eastern Market is our backup grocery store when our companies don't deliver, so we run there real fast, usually for fresh flowers. But we've been buying our country ham sausage from the meat company there ... They self-grind it, and we buy it there fresh for the lychee salad dish that we serve.
You guys used an interesting method, Kickstarter, to jump-start funding for the restaurant.
We raised $25,000 with Kickstarter and that helped get us started.
Have you met some of the people who donated?
Yup, a lot of them have come-in, some are from the family, some are strangers, and they've already come in to give it a try.
What's the biggest thing going through your mind on day two?
Organization. Organization. I mean on the surface things appear okay, but we just finished day one and we need to build systems. Systems for receiving. Systems for support. Systems to run a business. We just have to bite the bullet and start saying "Okay, we're open, let's do it."
In-terms of dealing with the entire team, have you guys been able to work on some of those kinks already?
Absolutely. We were here until 4 a.m. for that reason, but there's only so much you can do in a day. I met with my managers last night at 3:30 a.m. But, then my eyes began to close, and I realized there's only so much you can do on day one.
Was there a celebration to finish off the day?
People definitely wanted to go home, but we popped some champagne, and then we went to bed. The real celebration will come in a month. Maybe we'll break out the whiskey then.
Finally, is there a particular dish that you're most proud of?
I love the lychee salad. It's completely not my style of cooking. I like things that are really simple, and that dish has about 20 ingredients in it. But, I like some things that are simple, and some things that are fancy. I like the contrast of it. It's a really complex dish, but I love it, and it's really delicious.
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