Here’s what’s the most interesting about Rook moving later this year into new, bigger digs a couple blocks north of its current location at 719 Virginia Ave.
Well, there are two things. One is that Spice Box will be taking the space, which seems like a great fit. (I’ve got more details from Spice Box’s Nitin Naidu that I’ll post shortly.)
But the other is that Rook chef and co-owner Carlos Salazar will have the freedom to do whatever he wants with the menu, something that’s incredibly important, both for the city – which will have more creative food options – and for the chef, who will be able to realize his vision for Rook.
“My menu will be similar but with no boundaries,” he said. “Meaning I will be able to serve anything I want/could get my hands on.”
The menu will be a little bigger, he says, because he’ll have more staff and more space. (The kitchen at Rook is notoriously small, though certainly not the smallest in town – I’m looking at you, Sangrita!)
“Things have grown so quickly in the last few years that Carlos and I knew we needed a much bigger space to meet demand and to grow,” said co-owner Ed Rudisell, in a release announcing the move.
But customers will have to change their perception of just what kind of restaurant the new Rook will be.
“Still today, after almost 2 years, I get customers that think we are still a banh mi joint,” Salazar said. “If I do put banh mi on, it will be different from what we have right now.”
You won’t find any of the Rook banh mi sandwiches on the new restaurant’s opening menu, Salazar said, although maybe eventually you’ll see something along the lines of a pressed Cuban banh mi with char sui pork belly and City Ham from Smoking Goose.
“Like most of my menu items,” he said, “sandwiches will come and go.”
But that shouldn’t be a problem for the cadre of loyal customers that Rook has built since it opened in 2013.
“My customers over the past couple years have evolved so much,” he said, “and it is amazing to see the change. In the beginning, it felt like pulling teeth just to get customers to try something outside the box. Now I feel that most of them that know Rook and me trust that what I put out will be good.”
Salazar is looking forward to creating the new menu, one that expresses his vision for the restaurant.
“The new Rook will be what Rook should have been and what I have envisioned the restaurant I’ve always wanted to open,” he said. “People ask what type of cuisine Rook is. I tell them it’s Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, etc. Really, I like to call it ‘my’ cuisine. Meaning it’s the food I love to cook and eat, and I want to share it with others.” – Jolene Ketzenberger