Image: Pork with tomato, cherry, shelling peas, pork “vierge” from the Summer 2022 tasting menu.
Last Updated: July 2022
Current Status: The dining room is open for sit-down and the tiny greenhouses still remain on 14th Street for “outdoor” dining. They have shifted to a “tasting menu” format. The bar offers a scaled down tasting menu on off-nights. They also continue to do a take-out option based around the tasting menu.
Bresca offers imaginative dishes in a warm setting with attentive service. It is a special place but does not need to be for special occasions. The current tasting menu format works well to show of Chef Ryan Ratino’s skills, but is a bigger commitment than the before times à la carte format – both in terms of quantity and cost. That said, Bresca always was teetering on a multi-course format based on plating portions.
The food remains just as inventive as before. Ratino seems to relish in the chance to offset different flavors in unexpected ways. A standout on the recently-revealed menu is the Doppio Ravioli with a whipped broccoli, cheese and cacio e pepe foam. It is delicate and creamy, but with sharp green notes above the underlying creamy theme. The Coho salmon dish incorporates sorrel, “broken buttermilk” sauce and raspberries. It may not be for everyone, but it also is so good that it might convert some “meat and potatoes” folks to more delicate gastronomy.
Bresca’s ambiance has always been bright. It gives off a warmth that pulls people walking down 14th Street to peek in the window. The staff remain just as sharp and engaging as ever. The cocktail program has always been a strong suite here, though the wine list could use some rounding out, especially at the lower end.
Like so many independent restaurants Bresca had to hustle to stay open. They had the additional challenge of opening a minibar-like spot upstairs (that got 2 stars from Michelin). It continues to hustle and it continues to be a special place.
Other Guidance: A tie may be too formal, but it is certainly a nice place, and most will dress to match that. With the tasting menu format you will have to alert them of any requirements, most of which can be accommodated. Entrance is at street level with no stairs.
Washington Post: Tom gave it 2.5 stars pre-Covid.
Michelin: 1 Star
Before Times Review:
Last Visited: January 2019
The Chef/Owner of Bresca is Ryan Ratino, who brought some pizzazz back to Masa 14 and elevated Ripple (right before it closed). He now has the chance, early in his career, to forge his own identity and legend. So far, so good. Bresca is fresh, creative – sometimes innovative – cooking. Go now, so you can say “I went when…”
The dishes are layered with flavors and elements. Sometimes they may be too busy, but this is a chef pushing for something new and interesting, and that is a good thing. It is not surprising he is a veteran of molecular and avant-garde temples WD-50 and minibar. One standby in the first year was an insanely decadent Sea Urchin Linguini. Other ingredients for the dish listed on the menu (though probably not all those used) are truffle, chili, yeast butter, and porcini. Some likely blanch at the dollop of orange urchin resting on top, but the adventurous palate will be rewarded. Likewise, oysters and anything he puts on top will be provocative and likely pleasurable. The menu changes to reflect whim and weather. This is far from comfort food (though there are large meat dishes that can be ordered for the table), and those who shy away from cutting edge take heed.
The space is open and bright; blue, yellow and white dominate with other accents like a wall of live green shrubbery. It is a bright oasis of a place. Early into its run, Bresca caught on, and that will likely continue now that it has earned a Michelin star. Most nights the din of the dining room is vibrant but short of raucous. The service is nearly as earnest as the cooking, reflecting a team that seems excited to be a part of the experiment.
The wine list, as expected for a young restaurant, is focused and interesting, but not extensive. It leans toward old world and affordable. Cocktails are also highlighted and can border on precious (the Bee’s Knees is served in a bee shaped contraption).
When the story is told about the renaissance of D.C. dining, Bresca will be part of that oral history.
Other Guidance: A tie may be too formal, but it is certainly a nice place, and most will dress to match that. GF, V may work their way through the menu and staff will likely accommodate, but the menu does not appear to start with that in mind. Entrance is at street level with no stairs.
Washington Post: 2.5 from Tom.