One of the first fine dining restaurants my wife Jun and I visited after moving to DC from New York City last year was Jônt. It came highly recommended by a few people we spoke to, and we went with sky-high expectations. Contrary to our expectations, however, the tasting menu at the restaurant didn’t work quite as well as had hoped. After that experience at Jônt, we never bothered to check out the restaurant downstairs where chef Ryan Ratino initially made his name in the DC dining scene. We finally made an effort to visit Bresca this month (about a year and a half after our trip to Jônt) and were rewarded quite handsomely.

Our culinary journey together taught us that the number of Michelin stars is by no means everything. Sure, a two- or three-star establishment may use more expensive ingredients or fancy techniques compared to a one- or even no-star place, but ultimately how successfully the kitchen puts together the entire menu hinges on attention to detail and execution. From at times overly aggressive seasoning to questionable decisions to combine ingredients that stood out too much on their own, we felt like the kitchen at Jônt was trying to too much without a distinct identity (someone on the social media remarked to me quite aptly that Jônt felt like a poor imitation of the Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare in New York). On the other hand, we were absolutely in love with the creative yet smart French-accented cooking with precision that Bresca’s six-course tasting menu (at $148 per person when we visited) displayed. Sure, you’ve had bluefin tuna crudo before, but likely not as delicious as the one from the restaurant with beet vierge.

We’ve certainly had some really outstanding pasta dishes this year, and the carrot cappelletti from Bresca undoubtedly is one of the top on the list. With pear, hazelnut granola and lamb neck, the earthy flavor of this beautifully plated dish was simply outstanding. The expertly prepared Hokkaido scallop was another winner, accompanied by sunchoke and black garlic, while the brioche stuffed chicken with black truffle and malt vinegar was also very delicious. Surprisingly, the only slight miss from the savory course was the restaurant’s signature duck a la presse (which is available as $25 supplement per person). The duck breast was by no means bad, but the texture was not the most moist and tender we were hoping for. After the duck, we were very pleased with the delightful dessert of tropical ambrosia with flavors of coconut and mango as well as small balls of tapioca.

Getting a reservation at Bresca is not as challenging compared to some of the most popular restaurants in DC, but I still recommend booking in advance for weekend seating. The overall upscale but not stuffy bistro ambiance of the restaurant is another plus for the dining experience, and the service staff was also friendly and attentive (we were somewhat surprised to see a greeting card with our names that the restaurant kept from our visit to Jônt). The restaurant has a full bar with very inventive cocktails as well as a wine list that is quite thoughtful and draws from a variety of regions in France and elsewhere in the world. Our visit to Bresca reaffirmed our belief that an outside accolade as represented by the number of Michelin stars is not everything (for what it’s worth, Bresca does have one star), and what matters is how much we like the culinary philosophy and kitchen’s execution. In that respect, Bresca was a very impressive restaurant, and will be one of the restaurants we will continue to check out from time to time.   

KenScale: 8.5/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.5/10)

Address: 1906 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009


Reservation via Tock

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