First Look at Roost
Roost is still BYOB for the time being, while new owner Kevin Naderi sorts out the last of his licensing issues.This is absolutely to your advantage, as the hatchling cafe, which only opened on December 11, is the sort of neighborhood bistro where you'll want to take a bottle of wine and settle in as if it were your own home.
Photo courtesy of Facebook Seared diver scallops on top of Middle Eastern-spiced lentils with yogurt.
In fact, "Roost" is an entirely appropriate name for the feel that Naderi has cultivated so far: the type of homey charm that fits effortlessly into the little spot at 1972 Fairview, which housed Latina Cafe for years. Roost seems older than it is, as though it's always been here. The crowd last Wednesday -- with self-brought bottles in tow -- attested to this aesthetic, mostly Montrose-area residents eager to welcome a new restaurant into the neighborhood.
Naderi's restaurant suits the neighborhood itself just fine, too. As Montrose is itself a charmingly jumbled amalgam of housing styles, residents, restaurants and sprawl, so too is Roost's charmingly jumbled, tapas-style menu an amalgam of flavors and cuisines. You can see Naderi's roots in his locally sourced ingredients, learned under his days with Chef Randy Evans at Haven, and in the Persian flavors of his family.
The first dish I tried that Wednesday night leaped out at me with startling sureness for a restaurant only open a fortnight: seared diver scallops atop a bed of curried lentils, spoonfuls of tangy yogurt resting between the tall pillows of scallops. It was a calm and steady dish in its no-nonsense presentation, with a confidently Middle Eastern flavor profile and expertly cooked scallops with a crusty layer of sear.
Roost's cozily redone interior looks nothing like the old Latina Cafe.
Prior to this dish, it hadn't occurred to me that Naderi's food would carry this Persian influence; I'd only known that he was working under the "farm-to-table" style, and assumed that he'd be making food similar to what he cooked as sous chef at Haven. How wrong I was. "Curried lentils" could have meant anything from an Indian to a Thai flavor profile, but here it tasted of advieh, with warm licks of cumin and cinnamon rising through the lentils.
Successive layers of influence weave their way into Naderi's food, too: the charcuterie skills found in many of the city's young chefs these days, and that strong Japanese bent found in many modern restaurants. On our charcuterie plate was a rustic jar of duck rilletes holding its own against a keenly spiced sausage that tasted like allspice-scented kufta. A bowl of roasted cauliflower -- itself a Middle Eastern comfort food warhorse -- was topped with flakes of bonito that danced on top as they melted into the warm vegetables below, creating a satiny dashi sauce that coated the cauliflower with a salty, creamy flavor deeper than any béchamel.
Parking is limited, unfortunately, so get there early or prepare to park in the neighborhood.
And that was only the beginning -- for our dinner that night and for Roost. While not every dish was as remarkably well-balanced as the scallops and lentils or the katsuobushi-topped cauliflower, I still came away reeling at how confident and consistent the dishes were for such a young restaurant. The service, too, seems to be flourishing in the cozy space, with plenty of attentive waitstaff for the 45-seat restaurant and Naderi overseeing it all masterfully from the front of the house.
At Roost, Naderi's roots are really showing. And so far, I really like it.
Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords