Dinner + Theater at Rogue 24

My expectations for Rogue 24 were low – the reviews were very mixed, and I was somewhat skeptical. I like the concept of the 24 bite “journey,” but how could the food and experience be better than Minibar or the over-the-top theatricality of Alinea?

Happy to report that the food was good, surprisingly so, with some dishes more pleasing to my palate than others (of course) and a surprisingly heavy emphasis on olfactory sensation. The wine pairings were excellent and unusual, with one glass every three bites, bringing out the various flavors and tastes in each grouping. The service was good, and the chef was delightful, teasing the one Dallas Cowboy fan in the group (I know, how can I be friends with this misguided soul?) and expounding on the virtues of Michigan quarterbacks. On our way out, I gave him a “Go Blue!” for good measure.

First, a word about finding Rogue 24. It’s in Blagden Alley, and although it’s marked with a large sign, if you walk in along side the restaurant as we did, you’ll end up missing the sign altogether. That said, I love the logo. As someone in our group remarked, it would make a good tat.

Here was our meal, with a few notes. No photos because that’s against the rules of the journey, but you get the idea:

  • Palm bone/olive marrow/orange/olive textures – promising start, nice mix of textures, both gritty and creamy
  • Cracklins/kimchi/sesame-soy/smoked char roe – the others seemed to like this more than I did. Was a bit too much like fancy shrimp chips for me, so I had a negative visceral reaction here.
  • Ossetra/cauliflower/champagne bubbles – one of my favorites, salty, crispy cauliflower sliver with mix of flavors and textures

Pairing: Foggy Ridge cider – would not have ever thought to pair a hard cider with food, but it brought out the flavors nicely

  • Urchin/squid ink/seaweed/clamato/sea air – previous reviews had panned this, but we liked the mix of spongy and crunchy, and the flavors tasted like the bottom of the sea. Beautifully presented, complete with oversized forceps
  • Fried rice special #2/duck/vegetables/scallion – smelled terrific, but taste couldn’t live up to the billing
  • Razor clam/sour apple/fennel/parsnip – a huge fan favorite. I think this was a top 3 for each of us

Pairing: Thai rockstar cocktail with vodka, vermouth and lemon – fruity, tart, a nice complement

  • New crop potatoes/truffle/leek/almond – didn’t make a big impression either way (I think it says something that in the recap, no one could think of much to say about this one)
  • Bent and twisted/shrimp ‘n’ grits – mixed review here, with two votes that the shrimp should have been slightly larger and therefore more of a flavor. I thought it was a bit bland overall
  • Fowl play – scented with wood smoke, which was a nice touch, but sparked a fit of coughing in one of our group, who has very sharp sense of smell (who knew?)

Pairing: Italian white from Piedmonte, good but innocuous complement, similar to a gruner veltner for me, but experts may disagree …

  • Over grown garden/powders/gels/textures – we all liked this one, and it might have been my favorite. Surprising, right? But terrific, concentrated flavors, and so refreshing.
  • Salmon belly/roe/wild fennel/gravalax/cedar – 3 votes loved it, but I thought it was okay. A bit bland for me, but I was definitely outvoted
  • Parmesan marshmallow/san marzano/basil/truffle – bleh. Sweet, spongy kind of tasteless fat noodles made from the marshmallow – didn’t get it. Didn’t like it.

Pairing: French rose, cinsault – excellent wine and great at bringing out the smoky tastes

  • Foie gras/smoked vanilla/lavender/huckleberry – 3 votes of liking it, but I thought it was okay, and I love foie gras. The slivers of foie gras were yummy, but the other tastes didn’t balance it as well as it could, maybe a bit salty?
  • Basil snails/jambone en gelee/potato/chanterelle – good, not great
  • What’s up doc/rabbit loin/soil/carrot/pecan – a favorite, and I thought the rabbit itself was excellent, perfectly done, a flavorful bite

Pairing: German riesling – spatlese, so a bit sweet, but a good counterpoint to the salty and earthy tastes

  • Nage/fall flavors/forest essence – really liked this one, very forrest-y
  • Pigeon/heirloom squash/black walnut/concord grape – no huge comments here, generally good
  • Benton’s bacon/bread/caramel/onion – three yeses and one no, I liked this one

Pairing: Spanish grenache, again good earthy wine and pairing for the flavors

  • Shabu shabu/onion/oyster mushroom/broth – not as described, and therefore, good, but threw us a bit
  • Lamb neck/black garlic/eggplant/lemon – a winner
  • Brad’s goat cheese/pickled peppers/olive textures/ash – okay, not that memorable

Pairing: South African merlot (Stellenboch) – very good with the food

  • Kuri squash/pecan crunch/fromage blanc/brown sugar – good individual flavors, but maybe not as integrated into one bite as it could have been
  • Tennessee/oliver & sinclair chocolate/cremeux/wood dirt – three yeses, one no, I was a yes
  • Happy endings/little things/small bites – a nice ending to the meal, and I love petit fours, so …

Pairing: Belgian abbey ale – think Chimay blue, fruity, a bit bitter, great with the tastes and flavors.

Bottom line: worth a try for foodies, mostly to say you’ve done it and the dissect the bites you can remember. And get the pairings, which were truly standouts.

Would I do it again? Unlikely, but I enjoyed our evening there.

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