Washington has a new restaurant with a little problem that’s going to make it hard for you to try it, despite the considerable talent of its chef, Yuan Tang.
Suffice it to say, 50 seats is too few for the crowds I predict at Rooster & Owl on 14th Street NW once word gets out about his handiwork. Carrots cooked to taste like you’re at a barbecue, noodles pulled from kohlrabi and celery root, and oxtails reimagined as pot roast are sure to generate the kind of enthusiasm that has made reservations at, say, Fancy Radish, Himitsu or Three Blacksmiths as challenging as the union of Kellyanne and George Conway.
Going into Rooster & Owl, I had never heard of Tang, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Carey. Leaving their debut venture, I felt extraordinarily well fed by the Falls Church native, who until recently had been earning his living as an Uber driver.
The dining room (formerly Crème) doesn’t prepare you for what’s to come. The leather chairs are comfortable, but also tightly spaced, and random overhead branches and leaves suggest the remains of a Halloween party. Shelves of plastic food containers keep some space between the visible kitchen and Tang’s audience. From a design stance, Rooster & Owl looks unremarkable. It doesn’t much matter, though, because as soon as the food starts showing up, your eyes will be riveted to the plates.