Chef Ryan Ratino is never one to shy away from Old World luxuries at his modern American restaurants—whether it’s a roving duck press at upscale 14th Street bistro Bresca, or heaps of caviar and truffles as part of the $375 tasting menu at adjoining chef counter Jônt. Now, Ratino—whose restaurants have garnered three Michelin stars between them—is expanding to the Wharf with equally lofty plans: a yet-to-be-named European dining destination and adjoining cocktail bar, Press Club, from beverage director Will Patton.
“I want to bring back haute cuisine to DC. I don’t think anyone is doing too much of it,” says Ratino, who plans to pay homage to the Ducasses and Robuchons of the finest dining world. “I want to do our interpretation of Continental Cuisine, focusing on the foundational cooking of Europe and France—but in our style, a little more fun and not quite as formal.”
Much is still in the works (the restaurant is slated for sometime next year), though Ratino has a distinct vibe in mind. The space will be intimate, with fewer than 30 seats. Gestures will be grand. Truffles will be shaved, sauciers will sauce tableside, ducks will be pressed.
“If you look me in the eye and say, ‘I want some more caviar,’ I’m going to serve you more caviar—that’s part of high-end international dining that I feel like American dining sometimes needs help with,” says Ratino.
If all goes according to plan, the restaurant will be fanciest of the dining and drinking options among the Wharf’s “Phase 2” development, which includes Hell’s Kitchen by Gordon Ramsay and a high-end Beijing-style restaurant from NYC’s Phillippe Chow.
Press Club—not affiliated with the National Press Club—is Patton’s breakout venture from behind the bar at Bresca and Jônt. The concept is partly inspired by Tokyo’s vinyl record bars. High-end spirits will be matched with tunes in a refined setting (again, under 30 seats). Patton, who got his own Michelin recognition as the little red guide’s “Exceptional Cocktails Award Winner,” will be given free reign to geek out and focus on ingredients and high-end spirits,” Ratino says.
So is the team aiming for more Michelin stars? Yes, always.
“We’re going to do what we’re good at versus pursuing more casual venues—it’s not where our heart lies,” says Ratino. “Many times we do something as chefs, and think ‘Is this what the guest wants? Is this what the city wants?’ But if I don’t love it, I don’t want to do it.”