It feels like ages since we've gone out and enjoyed a new restaurant. Honest! This is not for lack of places springing up all over DC, but rather our time and general tendency to gravitate to old standbys. But Saturday we broke from this pattern and tried Ris. The brainchild and namesake of former 1789 chef Ris Lacoste, the place garnered appetizing initial reviews and has reportedly been in the works since 2005.
(Photo: Washington Post)
(Photo: Washington Post)
It was worth the wait! The food was fantastic, the pacing not rushed, and the service was solid.
After a long Saturday spent working, we had a 7pm reservation, but the presence of the generally 60+ aged crowd made it feel earlier. The restaurant is located at 2275 L St., on an obscure block in the District's West End. The space is quite nice inside: candle-lit, warm, with dark brown and off-white leather furnishings, lots of booths, and a rich maroon wall paper accented by gold flowers.
The service from the start was attentive but not obtrusive, and while our waiter was stumped by the origin of the scallops and dessert wine selections, he quickly got the answers, and proposed that we sample one of the wines before opting for the glass.
We decided to start with a glass of champagne. B went for a prosecco, while I opted for a brut rose. These were the perfect elixirs to a stressful weekend, and well priced at $10 and $12. The wine list by the glass was quite good, and we both enjoyed excellent, full-bodied selections of an Italian syrah and a California petite sirah later on in the evening.
The menu offers about ten choices for starters and entrees, with a handful of nightly specials. To start, we both went with a soup, the perfect medicine for this cold DC winter. I opted one of the specials: New England Chowder. The chowder was traditional style, but adding to the richness of the cream-based soup, was a pad of butter served atop. The broth was rich and probably did not need the extra butter. But the clams were tender and succulent and their flavor tinged the celery and potatoes commingling in the broth. B went with the French onion soup, which was jam-packed with what else, but onions. It was a wonderful and authentic starter that reminded us of the soup we enjoyed at Le Nord in Lyon this past fall.
We continued to on with rich food choices when we moved to our entrees. I had the lamb shank pictured above. Until this dish, I did not think that Central's lamb shank could be topped. This succulent piece of meat changed that; the generous portion of lamb is perfectly caramelized on the outside and fork tender and juicy under the skin. Served atop chick peas, its richness is offset by mint, yogurt, pine nuts, and pomegranate seeds; the latter adds color and a literal burst of flavor. B had the cider glazed pork chop with collard greens, apple-cornbread pudding, shell-beans with bacon and bourbon sauce. The pork was tender and had a perfect sear which sealed in the juices. The sides on their own were also flavorful and well executed. This dish did not come together like the lamb, but was nonetheless, a good bet for a cold evening.
We ended the meal with a unique creation: German chocolate mousse cake with roasted banana sauce. While the dessert was dense, it was a fantastic mix of flavor and textures.
I really like this restaurant. In a city with few regaled female chefs, Ris gives the boys a run for their money. I look forward to heading back. Dinner for two with multiple glasses of wine, two starters, two entrees, a shared dessert, tax and tip was $175.