For husband-and-wife duo Carey and Yuan Tang, food has always been about family. He’s a chef, and she’s senior director of stewardship and donor relations at Children’s National Hospital. Through years of opposite schedules, the pair would meet when they could for meals, passing forks back and forth. Rooster & Owl, their new American eatery opening today on 14th Street, aims to capture that same feeling with a communal tasting menu of seasonal small plates intended to be passed across the table.
Yuan Tang has studied at multiple Michelin-starred spots such as New York’s The Modern and Jean-George and was the executive sous chef at now-closed DC spots 701 Restaurant and Rogue 24. At Rooster & Owl, his four-course, vegetarian-friendly menu centers each dish on one or two types of seasonal produce. Think endives with romesco and ricotta (crafted to evoke chips and dip) and a reimagined Carolina barbecue dish with dry-rubbed and grilled Maryland carrots (for which the cornbread pairing arrives in the form of a corn-based ice cream). Once he gets up to speed, Tang plans to rotate the menu weekly.
For $65, each guest will select four courses from four options per course. Rather than plopping each offering in front of diners, Rooster & Owl’s serving staff will place the dishes in the center for sharing.
Drinks will be overseen by Jason Swaringen (Rogue 24, the Green Zone), whose bar program will be flexible enough to pair with multiple courses. Diners looking to imbibe can order a la carte or purchase drink pairings for an additional $35. A carrot and turmeric rum cocktail with drops of blended carrot top and fennel oil pairs well with any one of the first courses. A bright but substantial Chardonnay might be recommended for consecutive second and third courses of a stuffed Napa cabbage and a Viet-Cajun lobster étouffée.
The dessert menu, headed by former Métier and Kinship assistant pastry chef Olivia Green also emphasizes fresh produce. Blood orange sorbet is served over a thickened British-style cream then sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, and a hazelnut eclair comes with a praline mousseline filling and a brown-butter ice cream.
The intimate 50-seat dining room designed by Georgetown-based architecture firm HapstakDemetriou+ (also behind Call Your Mother and District Winery) aims to be homey and rustic. A shelf filled with cookbooks—relics of the Tang family—sections off a more intimate seating space. Yuan’s kitchen is just visible beyond shelves laden with containers of dry ingredients, like the fever dream of a hyper-organized Tupperware devotee. The setting, says Carey, is designed to show off that Rooster & Owl is a coordinated family affair.
On top of her job at Children’s National Hospital, Carey would often work evenings in the front house of restaurants where Yuan was a chef. The rhythm they discovered as front and back employees at the now-shuttered Rogue 24 inspired them to begin their own industry endeavor. The dynamic now inspires the restaurant’s name: General Manager Carey, working days, thinks of herself as the morning person, or, the rooster. Executive Chef Yuan, who spends his evenings in the kitchen, is the owl.
Rooster & Owl. 2436 14th St., NW; 202-813-3976.