Sunday, December 26, 2010


Dishes To Die For: autumn woods pasta, caesar salad, pecan carrot cake

You may have noticed that I have not blogged about many cooked dishes. I raved about the prosciutto at Dino, was over the moon about the oysters at BlackSalt, and was enamored with Zola’s service. But none of these say much about what is going on in the kitchen in any of those restaurants. After all, shucking an oyster does not exactly involve culinary skill, even if it is a superior oyster, and neither does procuring high end charcuterie.
In my mission to write only about outstanding dining experiences, there have been loud silences in many of my posts. After all, my slogan is “if I don’t love it, I don’t write about it.” So there have been several restaurants I have eaten at but not written about at all, for lack of bloggable material.

Ris has ended this drought. The food at Ris is simply sublime, restoring my faith in dining out. The most outstanding dish on the menu, in my mind, is the Autumn Woods Pasta:  house made ricotta cavatelli with roasted butternut squash, mushrooms, sherry caramelized onions, cranberries and walnuts. This description is coy about the wondrous wild mushroom sensation that pervades the dish – if “pervades” is the right word to use for a flavor that is robustly present without being overwhelming. And if the mushrooms had any aspiration to dominate, this is kept in check by the surprise entrances of other elements. Enter left, the roasted butternut squash, whose bright orange color grabs your attention and holds it there with an uncharacteristic al dente bite. Enter right, the caramelized onions, more crunchy than you would expect, deflecting attention from the mushroom wannabe. And in the background is the ricotta cavatelli, the demure canvas backdrop holding it all together. High drama on the tongue, I tell you.

Three in our party had split the pasta entrĂ©e as an appetizer. The fourth was in an obdurate mood and insisted on the Caesar salad as his appetizer. Another knock out. The bite he gave me included a delectable anchovy. They don’t have to be hairy, you know. It is slicing them in half which reveals their hairy underbellies, and Ris thankfully refrains from exposing them thus. Served whole, they are silvery and elegant, and quite presentable to company. This salad is out of the ordinary, respectful of the soul of the dish but refusing to bow to convention.

And there was a third dish to die for in this meal: the Pecan Carrot Cake. In part, the joy of this dish was its presentation – it looked more like an updated swiss roll than a slice of cake. But the cakie-ness was perfection itself (avoiding the over-moistness that often engulfs carrot cake) and the sour cream with its butterscotch sauce was the right side of sweetness. I snuck a few extra bites when (I think) Matt wasn’t looking. All of this was swirled down with a snifter of perfect Armagnac.

I could also praise Ris as a physical space, with its sparkling bar and subtlely Asian, zen-like dining rooms. And I could compliment the flawless service. But that would be to distract from the food, which is what I really want to draw attention to. Ris is the real thing, reason to draw a wayward foodie back to the fold.

Ris on Urbanspoon


Fairlington Blade said...

Co-sign! I went there for Restaurant Week last year and had a fabulous meal.

Incidentally, check out Firefly near Dupont Circle. sometime.


Antoinette Ego said...

Thanks for the tip, BB. Will put Firefly on my list.