It might be because it's not quite as revolutionary as portrayed?
We went to the bar last night for happy hour and to sample the menu. Our bartender told us he was new, which unfortunately was a harbinger of the rest of the evening.
I'm in pretty much complete agreement. If I hadn't gone in thinking that this was Ris Lacoste's place, and if it hadn't just received 2.5 stars from Tom, I may not have been quite so disappointed. But Ris simply did not live up to my expectations, nor to the prices on its own menu. Though unexcited about the Bar Tart
, I found it quite delicious, and the flaky pastry crust on which its components rested had me excited to try the Chicken Pot Pie
. The Rockfish
, and the single Sardine
, were also well prepared. In particular, that single sardine had a brilliant flavor profile -- great acidity from the verjus that played well with the toasted, rich pinenuts and the sweet onions. But the portions were a joke. As for the Mushroom Pappardelle
, it was the one truly generous portion served to us (maybe because it was ordered as an appetizer, but sent out an hour later with our entrees they decided to bulk it up?), but the many ingredients, which should have worked well together -- butternut squash, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, and chestnuts -- did not mesh. It seemed more to me like pasta in a mushroom cream sauce, with a whole bunch of chopped up stuff tossed in, served tepid (it may have been much better hot) and difficult to eat in a way that captured all the flavors due to its poor construction.
A few dishes that Leigh didn't mention....
The bread service is truly lackluster. We waited so long for our food that I couldn't help eating some of it, but it didn't taste particularly fresh to me, and I'm not a fan of bland, tiny slices of bread that are all crust and no interior, especially when they are served on their own (not with a dish for the purpose of saucing). Clam Cakes
($6.30) off of the Rush Hour menu, which at least one bartender described as clam hush puppies, were not worth eating. I had one (from a generous portion of about 8), and despite the fact that I almost never turn down fried food, passed on seconds. The accompanying tartar sauce was lovely -- creamy, with the right balance of pickled tartness and sweetness -- but the cakes themselves, shaped like hush puppies to be sure, were bland (no clam flavor at all) and tasted simply of dough to me. Calling them hush puppies only reminds me of the ones offered at Sou'Wester, and makes me take even greater offense to their flavorless counterparts' existence.
A picture posted on Yelp showed Ris' Chicken Pot Pie
($18) to be of the sort that I hadn't seen in a long time: one fully encased in pastry crust, and turned out of the pan it was cooked in, onto a plate. It looked large and deeply satisfying, as so often there is not nearly enough pastry crust to go along with the rest of the pie's contents. I guess the preparation has changed recently, as ours was served in a small dutch oven, and just topped with a layer of this delicious crust. Its contents were good -- plenty of rich chicken flavor, and a good balance between vegetables and meat, etc. -- but unlike the one served at Againn (for the exact same price) I have no desire to go back and experience it a second time. The accompanying salad was boring, and the extra gravy on the side was simply unnecessary, like serving a crock of extra broth alongside a bowl of soup.
Undoubtedly, the poor service colored my perspective on the food (and there's nothing I can do about that), but even taking this into account, when juxtaposed with the cost, and in light of the reputation that precedes her, the food that Ris is putting out just doesn't do it for me. I'd like to give the place a second chance, but given all the other fantastic options in the area, it just doesn't seem worth it.
I went directly to Vidalia (a 5 minute walk away) after dinner for a beer and a soft pretzel, and felt more satisfied by that $3 combo of bread and mustard than all I'd eaten over the 3 and a half hours spent at Ris' bar.