How do you follow a restaurant that was declared the best new eatery in America by Bon Appetit and, less than a year into its existence, slipped into the third slot in critic Tom Sietsema's favorite places to eat in Washington?
Silverman has signed a lease for the ground-floor space of the Homebody store, located next to his debut restaurant on Eighth Street SE, where he will open an evening-only fine-dining establishment that will take the Rose's Luxury experience to the next level. During daylight hours, the space will double as a coffee shop and cafe.
"People love, myself included, things that are really fancy. Fancy is fantastic. Formal not so much," says Silverman while sitting at a rustic wooden table at Rose's. "I think you can do super fancy without being formal. I think formal for me, and for a lot of people, detracts from pleasure because it can make you uncomfortable."
"It's not that we're doing this whole new genre," he adds. "It's just Rose's super fine-tuned or super dialed-in."
One other difference for Silverman's next project: The fine dining restaurant will take reservations.
"That was, like, the best part," the owner says. "As soon as we decided [on fine dining], we were like, 'This is going to be great. Everyone's going to love it. No line.'"
When it opens in a year, the still-unnamed restaurant will instantly become one of the most unconventional fine-dining establishments in the country. It will not feature white tablecloths. It will give servers "some freedom in their uniforms," Silverman says. "We're thinking, maybe, I don't know, everyone wears bow-ties, but they can wear whatever bow-tie they want." The restaurant will also not — and I repeat, not — be open on Saturdays or Sundays.
"I was like, 'You know what? Let's do a five-day-a-week restaurant,'" Silverman says. "Then I started thinking about it, and I was like, 'Well, I might as well run the numbers and see if I can make it work with four.' And I was like, 'All right, well, it works with four.' I mean, we're not going to make as much money as we could, but that's not the point of it. We'll make enough to pay investors back and make them happy."
So what is the point of a four-day-a-week restaurant? For starters, the owner says, it gives his employees the weekend off, like many Americans have. And second, it gives the restaurant down time to experiment on dishes, develop more efficient operational systems and perhaps even organize the walk-in cooler. This was one of the many lessons Silverman learned at Rose's: The place became so busy, so fast, that it left little time to do the things that could help the restaurant perform better.
"We can always add a fifth day if we have to," Silverman adds.
Silverman and team had considered a number of ideas for their next project: a sandwich shop, a coffee shop, a bar, an ice cream shop or a fine dining restaurant. In the end, the 2,000-square-foot Homebody space dictated what they selected, Silverman says, since at least half the area would be dedicated to the kind of tricked-out kitchen the chef wanted.
The size of Silverman's current kitchen, considerably smaller than the one that James Beard Award winner Jimi Yui will design for the new space, has been one reason why the luxury has been limited at Rose's. Silverman mentions a tempura-fried spot prawn dish to illustrate his point: If he added such a delicacy to Rose's, the dish would immediately consume an entire station in a kitchen that is already maxed out.
"We can't do it here because it takes so much time," Silverman says. "If we sell it by the piece, we'll sell 500 pieces a night. We'll never be able to keep up. It will be the guy's entire station."
But those tempura prawns could make the cut at the new restaurant, which will feature a prix-fixe menu running at least $100 per person. Other dishes that Silverman and team have been considering and/or developing with an eye toward the new place: a Sungold sorbet as palate cleanser; scrambled uni served in an eggshell with live uni on top; whole racks of lamb; and even a whole pig on the grill.
"We're very happy with what we do here, but we are totally limited. We do 240 to 300 covers a night," Silverman says about Rose's. "The level of [sophistication] is limited because of that."
"What we'd like to do is create a little more curated experience, that is a little bit quieter, a little bit slower paced. A little bit, not a lot!" Silverman adds, punctuating the thought with a small, muffled laugh.
The coffee and cafe concept, dedicated to a tight space in front of the restaurant, is not fully sketched out yet. Silverman and his managers plan to offer coffee, espresso and cappuccino, but after that, they are still batting around ideas. They may offer sandwiches, breads, pastries or even to-go foods.
"I don't think we're, like, super-huge coffee nerds, but we're a little bit into a lot of things, so we'll definitely do a good job with it," Silverman says of the cafe, which will likely be open Tuesdays through Saturdays.
One benefit of Silverman's new restaurant will be personal for the chef: It will put him back in the kitchen more often. He doesn't expect, at present, to hire a chef de cuisine to run the place.
"My goal is to spend four days a week here, working on probably three services a week out of four and spend my fourth day doing experimentation, cooking, organization," Silverman says. He also plans to still spend two days a week at Rose's.