Tasting Intown: A review of Rose + Rye

Red Snapper

For Valentine’s Day, I am taking my wife to a castle for dinner, where she will order off a menu dreamed up by women in a restaurant managed by women. It’s possible to do this right in the middle of Midtown thanks to the gorgeously designed and totally yummy Rose + Rye. The restaurant is owned by 1Kept’s Thaddeus Keefe, and it has a similarly warm vibe of low lights, dark wood, fresh ingredients and accessible plates.

Like all the oddball mansions around Ansley Park, the restaurant’s architecture is a twisted yet spacious delight. Hand your keys to the valet and walk in through the hulking wooden doors to be greeted by a staircase to the dining room, which is hugged by a modern set of low-slung cocktail tables in a setting of exposed bricks and pipes. There’s a small bar in the back, hidden by the staircase, and a slightly larger bar upstairs that offers a sweeping view of city sparkle at night, the cozy heat of original wood playing smartly against cool furnishings. The cocktails are astutely mixed but not too pretentious or fussy—unless you count that many of them are named for Ernest Hemingway novels.

The dining room and open kitchen at Rose + Rye.

The dining room is also a study in understated contrasts. White ostrich leather booths and small chandeliers produce an austerity balanced by the activity of an open kitchen and artsy, animated guests. The space feels at once historical and modern, and the total effect is one of blessed seclusion, a retreat amidst the skyscrapers and a perfect environment for date nights or celebrations. The menu itself, which offers more small plates than entrees, is conducive to sharing. With an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients in American dishes that are creative yet utterly comprehensible, Rose + Rye offers food that is more interested in delight than surprise.

Amongst the starters, there is plenty to love for meat and potato people—a soup that includes leeks, duck with grit cakes, pork belly with gnocci, the default go-to of a Caesar salad palatably amped up by smoke and kale. The two standout starters are each $14. Their burratta salad lets the cheese hang back as part of a crisp green ensemble of julienne snap peas and a fluffy pesto foam. Both creamy and crispy, it’s a textural and flavorful masterclass in how to balance ingredients. Foam also starred in perhaps the most offbeat small plate, the french toast, which features both roasted and pickled mushrooms under a glorious pile of fondue bubbles. The presentation is striking, and as the foam melts into the french toast, this decadent dish becomes ever more gooey and saturated. Foams are often useless garnishes and flavorless presentation gimmicks, but their use on this menu is properly integrated and valuable to the dishes.

French Toast

The six entree options, ranging from $22 to $45, offer something relatively standard for everyone—chicken, tuna, snapper, duck, pork chop, ribeye. Of the four proteins we tried, every one was properly moist. Many of the wintry sides naturally focused on available greens, but some of the sauce accompaniments were quite special. The pork chop included a pickle plum chutney and the snapper included a wild cherry reduction, both of which jazzed up classic sides like root vegetable purees or sweet potatoes.

Coffee and dessert at Rose + Rye.

That chutney visited us again for dessert with fantastic results that may be overlooked by many diners. Although the panna cotta with fig jam and rosemary shortbread was on point and the dark chocolate tart with bacon fat popcorn will go over big with most everybody, the silent star is a delicate olive oil cake with vanilla whipped mascarpone and pickled plums. After a meal so confident in its freshness and artful simplicity, this is the perfect light finish. If you want coffee, there’s a weird challenge there—they serve it in tiny glassware that holds maybe five sips. A serve will watch your table like a hawk and refill it a thousand times if you want, which will annoy those who take cream or sugar or those who like coffee to stay hot. The whimsy and presentation of it first amuses and then quickly disappoints. Other than that small thing, the magic of Rose + Rye feels perfectly sustainable for repeat visits.

Rose + Rye is located at 87 15th Street in Midtown. For more information, visit roserye.com

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