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September 27, 2016

Foodie Eats at The Rook

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I’m always excited when I find a new restaurant that brings something special to the table. Over my three years on the Hill, I’ve collected several restaurants that I hold near and dear because the food is always creative, well thought out, and of course, delicious. The Rook is no exception. After two visits to this West End restaurant, located on State Street just past the Commons, I know it will become a standing member of my top foodie choices. I first visited the restaurant last spring when my best friend was visiting for Slope Day, and returned recently on a weekend to show more of my friends the great restaurant I had discovered.

We arrived on a quiet Saturday evening around 6 p.m.. The cozy vibe of the space welcomed us in for our meal. There are shiny wooden top tables towards the front of the restaurant and engaging artwork hangs along an exposed brick wall. There is an open kitchen window on the opposing side of the restaurant and a long wrap around bar towards the back with plenty of seating and bright lighting to highlight several shelves of bottles behind the bar.

The menu at the Rook is streamlined and seems to rotate based on what’s in season, because some items had changed since my first visit. There are several unique and exciting options as part of their beverage program, and I was able to savor some cocktails when I visited. My favorite drink was the Rook Rum Punch, which included El Dorado 8-year rum, Gozio amaretto, orange, lime, house grenadine and Angostura bitters served on the rocks. I’m a sucker for amaretto, and the sweet nutty flavor from that combined with the citrus complimented the rum nicely. I also tried the Bees? which was a mix of beeswax washed gin, chamomile tea, Lillet Blanc and vanilla, served up in a coup glass. The flavors were more concentrated in this drink compared to the rum punch, but had a beautiful aroma from the beeswax and tasted very floral.

Besides the great drinks, the food really stands out. When I first visited, I tried the snackboard, which consisted of salumi, manchego, goat cheese crostini, frisée salad, pickled vegetables and a bacon deviled egg. I loved the salty meat and cheese combined with the crunch of the fresh pickled vegetables, and the bacon deviled egg was an added creamy, indulgent bite. The grilled dates, wrapped in bacon, stuffed with a whole marcona almond and goat cheese and served in a trio, were the perfect combination of salty and sweet. I wish the greens underneath had been dressed, even with something as simple as a little lemon juice, because adding acid to the dish would have made it even more spectacular.

A few of the smaller plates could be combined to be a full meal, but there are also larger plates to enjoy. My friend ordered the savory tart, filled with summer squash, chèvre and caramelized onions as well as the Machiavelli fries, the Rook’s version of loaded fries, which were duck fat-fried and topped with mortadella, pepperoncini, oregano and Italian cheeses to combine two small plates into a meal. The spicy kick of the pepperoncini nicely balanced the richness from the duck fat on the fries. My other friend tried the cheeseburger, which was topped with iceberg, grilled pickled onion and special sauce. I was impressed that the kitchen provided her with the correct temperature she had ordered — medium rare — because not many restaurants I have visited recently have been able to cook to the temperature specified. For my entrée, I chose the porchetta, which was a large portion of pork loin with the belly attached, bacon-corn fritters and grilled peaches. The fritters were a beautiful golden brown with a soft interior, and the pork had a nice crispy edge. The grilled peaches were bursting with flavor that brightened the dish. On my first visit, my entrée was house made gnocchi with spring vegetables and a light cream sauce. The vegetables maintained their texture in the dish and the gnocchi was pillowy soft.

The Rook is not only a great dinner spot, but stays open late with an abbreviated menu. This would be a great place to stop by for drinks, dessert and maybe a light snack with friends as a night out. The staff at the Rook are attentive and polite, and round out the thoroughly delightful culinary experience. I’ll be looking forward to my next visit for more delectable creations.