Ris-oundingly bad

February 18, 2010

Shira Saperstein

Ris Lacoste is a culinary legend around here. Her decade-long reign as executive chef at 1789 was exceptional, bringing critical acclaim, not to mention “Restaurant of the Year” awards, to the corner of Prospect and 36th Street NW. In December, after a four-year absence, she re-emerged on D.C.’s restaurant scene with a place of her own: Ris.

Located one block north of Washington Circle in Foggy Bottom, Ris is housed in one hell of a building. Lacoste spent $4 million on design and furniture, and it shows. The main dining room is spacious, with a long bar and accompanying wide-screen televisions running along the back wall. Plush, tall chairs flank the stained-wood tables dotted throughout the room—the restaurant’s atmosphere is a unique balance of warmth and class. But be sure to enjoy walking in, gawking at the floor-to-ceiling windows, and sitting down—it’s all downhill from there.

I visited Ris last Sunday with my girlfriend, a self-described “foodie.” She ordered eggs Benedict and beef carpaccio, while I looked forward to my French onion soup and gruyère cheeseburger. The menu led me to believe that Ris had carved out a unique niche—although Sundays are brunch days at Ris, the restaurant smartly offers typical lunch or dinner fare, too.

Shira Saperstein

The minutes ticked by after we ordered our meals. I looked around to see few tables, a dozen at most, filled. I wanted to ask the waiter why the service seemed sluggish, but he dashed in and out of the hidden backroom so quickly that I never had the chance.

When my French onion soup came, it tasted rich, but the few clumps of cheese floating in the soup were a far cry from the thick cheese topping I expected.  My date’s eggs Benedict were overcooked and underwhelming.

“I was expecting a twist,” she said. “I could’ve had this at a Bob Evans.”

After another toe-tapping wait, our waiter emerged from his hidden lair to deliver our entrees. The cheeseburger, topped with a “special sauce” and onion jam, was surprisingly delicious. The dish isn’t complicated—it’s just a good old-fashioned cheeseburger. The carpaccio, garnished with arugula and topped with anchovies and capers, was equally satisfying. Sadly, it was by far the most daring meal on the table. While the entrees satisfied us, they were too little, too late, and far too usual.

Lacoste’s reputation in D.C.’s restaurant scene is deservedly huge, but she’s going to need every lick of experience to get Ris humming. In time, perhaps Ris will become the restaurant we hoped it would be. But for now, it’s just another “nice” place in D.C. with a pricey menu and poor service.

Read More

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments