Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ris - 10/09/2010

2275 L Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037
(202) 730-2500

Ris is the eponymous restaurant of chef Ris Lacoste, after a 10 year stint at the DC institution, 1789 Restaurant she's decided to be her own boss. Lacoste herself is a veteran of the DC food scene, after studying in France she returned and worked with Chef Bob Kinkead at a series of his restaurants including Harvest, 21 Federal, and Kinkead's American Brasserie. Chef Lacoste has also done stints at Vidalia, Eye Street Cafe, and Rock Creek at Mazza.

Ris offers a new American style menu that focuses on seasonal ingredients and contemporary technique. When I made my reservation I asked if the restaurant had a tasting menu. Though the restaurant doesn't feature a fixed tasting menu, they told me to call back ahead of my visit and they would try to accommodate my request. After researching the menu, I found enough intriguing dishes on the regular menu to make my own tasting of sorts.

Scallop Margarita - lime marinated scallops with chilies, orange, avocado and tequila ice
The Scallop Margarita was the ideal start, the lime and chilies give a ceviche like essence to the scallops while the tequila ice adds a bracing levity. Only the avocado felt out of place with a creaminess that felt disconcerting with the vibrant lightness of the rest of the dish.

Octopus Salad - feta and cucumber, cured lemon, spinach and yogurt
Recently I've been fortunate to enjoy several spectacular octopus courses. On the back of those experiences I've made a point to try octopus whenever I get the opportunity. The octopus was spot on and the combination of tangy and vegetal accompaniments provided a delightful levity that contrasted well with the heft of the cephalopod.

Crudos - sesame seared tuna with soy, wasabi and napa cabbage slaw, pastrami cured salmon with gingered grapefruit
For some reason crudos always entice me in theory and let me down in practice. The sesame tuna definitely falls into that category, fairly boring especially after the exciting noveau sushi from the previous night. The salmon was better with an intriguing spicy smokiness and bright acidity.

Charcuterie - foie gras torchon with pickled cherries, pork rillettes with Dijon potato salad, prosciutto with melon-feta strata
I basically ordered this to get a taste of the torchon and I wasn't disappointed, the liver was suitably unctuous and silky. The prosciutto was paired with a classic partner in melon though the use of watermelon was a bit unconventional. Unfortunately the lighter flavor of the melon did not stand up to the power of the meat. Last up was a pork rillette, redolent with savory porcine goodness and so naturally suited to the spicy mustard of the potato salad.

Braised Lamb Shank - on chick peas, with yogurt, pita, pomegranate, mint and pine nuts
The lamb was wonderfully tender and literally falling off the bone. The flavor was surprisingly light particularly with the chick peas and pine nuts. The yogurt added a wonderful tang that broke up the monolithic feel of the lamb.

Grilled Portuguese Skirt Steak - served classically with an over easy egg, rice and fries with a sauce of pickled hot peppers, beer and blackened onions
I was expecting a lot out of this course, equal parts beefy sapor, and tangy vegetables all wrapped up with a velvety egg yolk. Unfortunately the course was slightly off on all counts, the vegetables didn't have enough acidity, the richness of the beef didn't pop, and the egg was a touch overdone. Enjoyable but aside from the fries, nothing was particularly noteworthy

By the end of the meal I was far too full to have dessert but I must say that the food exceeded my expectations. I considered having diner at 1789 but the restaurant and menu just felt so tired I couldn't bring myself to pay them a visit despite their reputation. Given Chef Lacoste's long tenure at 1789, I unfairly assumed that Ris would have a similar feel but I was happy to be proven wrong.

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