Long-awaited Restaurant in D.C.‘s West End Finally Opens

risChef Ris Lacoste sits down with a cup of cof­fee in the bar area of her recently opened restau­rant named, nat­u­rally, RIS. She looks happy, but a lit­tle tired, which is expected. Open­ing a new restau­rant is hard work. “It’s not an easy thing to do,” she said. “It’s not for the faint of heart.”

The debut of RIS, which had a quiet open­ing Mon­day in D.C.‘s West End, is a cul­mi­na­tion of years of work. Lacoste had the idea of open­ing a new restau­rant when she left 1789 after a 10-year run as exec­u­tive chef at the end of 2005, and she started really lay­ing the ground­work for RIS in May 2006.


    “I want to embrace warmth and I want to embrace this neigh­bor­hood. I think this neigh­bor­hood is fabulous.”


Though she kept busy work­ing in such out­lets as con­sult­ing, she soon switched her focus to get­ting her name­sake off the ground.

“This was a full-time job, open­ing a restau­rant of this cal­iber,” Lacoste said.

The result is hybrid casual/fine din­ing estab­lish­ment, not pre­ten­tious, but please leave the flip-flops at home.

“I wanted to embrace a more casual approach to high-end din­ning and a more relaxed approach, which I think is very impor­tant for the econ­omy and also impor­tant for one’s com­fort level,” said Lacoste, who was named the Chef of the Year by the Restau­rant Asso­ci­a­tion of Met­ro­pol­i­tan Wash­ing­ton in 1999.

RIS boasts a cor­ner loca­tion at L and 23rd streets in North­west, just a block from Wash­ing­ton Cir­cle. It lies right in the mid­dle of Foggy Bot­tom, George­town, Dupont and down­town, just a short walk from George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity and a num­ber of hotels and businesses.

“The con­cept here is high-end neigh­bor­hood cafe,” Lacoste said. “I really am try­ing to cre­ate a diverse menu, a daily din­ing con­cept that is part of the tapes­try of the every day lives of the neighborhood.”

The menu is sea­sonal Amer­i­can, with a more ele­gant flair and empha­sis on fresh ingre­di­ents. Try clas­sics such as the meat­loaf or liver and onions, or go with items like the lamb shank.

Mitchell Her­man, co-owner of RIS, agrees there were cer­tain chal­lenges in get­ting the restau­rant off the ground, but is more than happy with the result.

“Mostly just get­ting the image of what [she] really wanted this to look like at the end,” Her­man said. “It’s dif­fi­cult to look at it on paper and visu­al­ize an exact pic­ture in the end. This is close.”

How close?

“I don’t know if I had an image,” Lacoste said. “Of the look of it and what peo­ple are telling me when they walk in the door, I have absolutely suc­ceeded in cre­at­ing the image I wanted, the response I wanted from peo­ple. That it’s ele­gant, yet warm and invit­ing and comfortable.”

By: Robert Ful­ton: Spe­cial to The Examiner


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