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Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Plaudits: The Daily Beast's Hungry Beast's Winter's Hot New Restaurants
Neighborhood: West End

I want to preface this review by saying: You can never truly judge a restaurant by brunch. We will be back to Ris, for a real meal. But you also can't dismiss brunch, which is why this review is going up in the first place. Like the short program in figure skating (sue me, the Winter Olympics are on all the time as I'm writing this), you can't win with brunch, but you can certainly lose.

The Setup

The buzz for Ris is something else; Chef Ris Lacoste's reputation (previously the executive chef at 1789) precedes her, and the signs that used to hang in the space's windows ("Ris is coming...") can best be described as portentous. The ex and I used to walk by the blackened windows on our way back home, look at the message and joke that it was unclear whether Ris would ever arrive; the messages had be up there for at least a year. But as part of the DC Wine and Food Festival, a benefit brunch for DC Central Kitchen was being held at Ris, and while brunch is never the best way to judge a restaurant (especially a new one), I bought a ticket and joined Official Co-Writer of DCWD CC for the meal.

The Vibe

All the time that Ris was coming was certainly spent on the interior; it is an absolutely gorgeous restaurant. The dining area is one continuous space, segmented only into a bar/lounge area, and a private dining room. The main area is mostly four-tops with a few two-tops along white booth seating; the tables and chairs themselves are dark brown with dark red and white leather cushions. The color scheme is various shades of brown trimmed with black and beige, with one of the far walls wallpapered in a red and gold floral design. The lighting is mostly hanging candle fixtures, and the whole vibe of the restaurant is welcome and inviting. Combined with the full-length windows, it's a stunning dining area. You could see how this would be an amazing dinner date at night time.

The Food

We were seated in the private dining area for the brunch, where we were given a prix fixe menu, with only a choice for the entree. The first course was a fruit plate, which could best be described as ordinary. The yogurt was nice, but I mean, it's a fruit plate (no one sprained any muscles on this brunch, that's for sure).

The three choices for the main course were huevos rancheros, and the two meals CC and I actually got: salmon rillette eggs Benedict, and chocolate chip french toast. For most everyone, there is a food that no matter how poorly cooked it is, you'll still enjoy it; eggs Benedict is one of those dishes for me. The salmon rillette was actually a really nice addition (I've started turning the corner on other meats instead of Canadian bacon for eggs Benedict, see: crab cakes). It's too bad then, that the eggs had been overpoached, so much so that the yolk had started to solidify. At the least the potato side dish was also pretty decent. As for the french toast, CC thought it was fair, but pretty par for the course.

For the last course, we were served a large group plate of finger-sized desserts; among them, chocolate macaroons, rose macaroons, passionfruit and blood orange gelees, hazelnut half moons, salted caramel, and white chocolate cherry truffles. These were also pretty fair, nothing mindblowing but nothing awful. The best were the truffles and the chocolate macaroons, which we ate by the handful. Still, nothing crazy.

Along with the food was as much sparkling wine as we could drink; our choices were a sparkling Chardonnay, a Viognier, and a sparkling "Riesling" (in reality, it was the wine with the gold flakes in it that we had sampled the day before). This made for a nice pairing with the meal, or at the least enough booze to make it a nice brunch.

The Verdict

Like I said at the top, I'm giving Ris a cursory three stars; it probably would have ranked at 2.5, but I'll give it an extra half star while I reserve judgment on the actual menu. We'll be back to Ris soon enough for an actual meal with a new review of it, but I did want to offer our thoughts on the restaurant's decor. To that point, I have to say that it was one of the nicer restaurants I've seen lately, so it ratchets itself up to four hearts (the joke here though is that after over a year of "coming," they better have gotten it right). Until we can get a better grasp on it, we'll stick with middle of the road.

Food Rating: *** (out of 5)
Date Rating: 4 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Smart Casual
Bar Rating: Classy Crowd
$$$$ (out of 5) ($75-$100 for two)
Pairing: Take your date out for a nice active day at the park on 23rd between N and O Sts. Straddling the Rock Creek Parkway, there's some nice tennis and basketball courts, a public pool (for the summertime), some good trails, and a pretty big expanse overall.

Ris on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Evan Halperin said...

nice review. Definitely check it out for dinner. I tried it for the first time last week on Lamb Thursday, it was excellent