As executive chef at Ripple, Ryan Ratino always felt a bit restrained by expectations. The Cleveland Park restaurant was a neighborhood hub, after all, and he wanted to cater to the people who’d been dining there for years. “There was more of a balance on the menu of things we really wanted to do and then things we still loved but maybe would’ve or could’ve done differently,” he says.
After the closure of Ripple in June, Ratino wasted no time getting to work on his own restaurant, Bresca, which will replace the bottom floor of Policy Restaurant & Lounge on 14th Street in the next several weeks. This time, Ratino says he isn’t holding anything back. The chef, who trained at avant-garde eateries like Minibar and New York’s WD-50, calls his culinary style “bistronomy”—a fusion of the words “bistro” and “gastronomy” that denotes a more casual, fun approach to traditional French cooking. While the food at Bresca will be similar to Ripple, Ratino expects it will be more expressive, more playful, and more personal.
A perfect example is a dish that takes two humble ingredients Ratino grew up with in Ohio—walleye pike and kohlrabi—and turns them into something much more elegant. He and his grandfather used to catch walleye on Lake Eerie, and his mom would batter and fry the flaky white fish, then serve it with kohlrabi from their garden. At Bresca, Ratino will pan-sear the fish and then pair it with grapefruit puree, poultry jus, and kohlrabi prepared several ways: pickled, roasted, pureed, and smoked.
Growing up, Ratino was also a butter noodle kid. These days, he’s more of a sea urchin linguini guy. Ratino’s handmade noodles will be dressed in a fermented yeast butter, chilies, truffles, lemon, and herbs, then topped with lobes of uni. Many of the herbs in his dishes will come from a rooftop garden that’s growing rosemary, fennel fronds, African blue basil, lemon verbena, various edible flowers, and much more.
The menu also has a handful of smaller snacks, including crudité that will get you excited about turnips. The root vegetables are partially hollowed and stuffed with a whipped seaweed brown butter, while the leaves are bunched in bouquets for dipping in green goddess dressing.
There are also some larger family-style plates, including a $56 whole roast chicken and a $68 “old a** entrecôte” steak. (Yes, that’s how it’s written on the menu.) Ratino expects that the meat will be aged for at least 80 days by the time the restaurant opens. The chef uses a “triple sear” technique where the steaks are seasoned with salt, seared, soaked in soy sauce, seared, soaked in kombu-steeped mirin, and seared again. The result is a nice caramelized crust on the outside, Ratino says. The final step: brushing the beef in a paste of shiitake mushrooms and kombu and finishing it over a maple wood and Japanese charcoal grill.
Ratino also acts as pastry chef. Desserts include foie gras cake pops as well as a cauliflower pot de crème with white chocolate ice cream. He’s also reviving ambrosia—a throwback marshmallow and canned fruit salad—in a way that will make you forget the version of the 1960s. Instead, coconut tapioca, mango sherbet, and fruit come in a pink peppercorn meringue husk. “It kind of looks like a Winnie the Pooh beehive,” Ratino says.
Expect the same whimsy from the cocktails. Juan Coronado, the co-owner of Colada Shop next door, will shake up drinks with unexpected ingredients like beeswax-infused tequila or black tahini.
Take a look at the full food menu below:
Turnip Crudité 7
seaweed brown butter – fleur de sel – green goddess
Oysters and Tea 12
earl grey – bergamot – long pepper
Pastrami Beets 10
feta – rye toast – flowering cress
Eggs and Potatoes 29
trout roe – caviar – chive – crème fraiche
Diver Scallop Crudo 14
meyer lemon – fennel dashi – ginger – green apple
Sea Urchin Linguini 21
truffle – chili – yeast butter – porcini
Foie Gras “PB&J” 17
salted peanut – financier – preserved cherry – celery
Smoked Pork Belly 23
lobster – sour corn – chanterelle – romaine
Late Summer Melons & Tomato 15
buratta – tomato jam – puffed grains – rooftop greens
Chestnut Agnolotti 19
rabbit – sunchoke – pear – mustard seed
Lacquered Duck Breast 24
lobster mushroom– “blue” berries – salsify- truffle cake
black garlic – onion – red cabbage – chervil
Pineapple Carrot Salad 15
grains – curry oil – spicy greens – date
Walleye Pike 16
grapefruit – kohlrabi – poultry jus – passion fruit
chicken or the egg? 56
cornbread stuffing – lemon – garlic – chili
– herb roasted maitake mushrooms
– egg sabayon – crispy parmesan – pickled apple
old a** entrecote (65+ day aged) 68
binchotan grilled – maple wood – kombu – shiitake
– stack of potato pave
– chanterelle mushrooms & braised onions
– wedge salad with green goddess
– supplement foie gras 13
Foie Gras Cake Pop 5 ea.
hazelnut – chocolate – amaretto – gold
Tropical Ambrosia 11
tapioca – mango – meringue – passion fruit
Cauliflower Cremuex 10
tonka bean – white chocolate – pound cake
Bresca. 1906 14th St., NW.