And from what we saw and tasted, it was the right move. The décor is more casual and the patrons, as well as the staff, seem to be having more fun as a result. (The nice view of 11th Street doesn’t hurt either.)
Kris’ drink menu includes an arsenal of Italian craft beers and cocktails that are fun, colorful and, at times, dangerously smooth. It’s hard to detect the presence of alcohol in the addictively flavorful orange mango martini ($10) but you’ll feel it later. The blueberry mojito ($10) and the half and half (lemonade and sweet tea vodka, $10) are just some of the very delightful adult beverages Kris offers.
Kris’ small plates and antipasti are extraordinary. The antipasto selections of meats, cheeses and vegetable plates ($4 each) ranged from charred artichokes to chorizo to gorgonzola with fig compote, all of which made for a nice start to the meal.
The appetizers set the bar really high. The grilled Spanish octopus ($13) is the best octopus we’ve had in town — perfectly grilled, seasoned and tender. The polenta fingers ($6) were super-addictive: At first glace, they resemble French toast sticks, but these crispy fingers are the perfect vehicle for the lovely cheese sauce that accompanies them, creating a simple but effective blend of hot, creamy, starchy goodness. It took a lot of willpower not to fill up on the fingers.
Kris’ small plates held some interesting twists on some familiar fare. The flatbread with homemade duck sausage ($11) had an exotic flavor well worth exploring. The lamb burger ($14) with gorgonzola and excellent house-made potato chips would easily convert anyone who thinks burgers should only be made from beef.
But them most impressive displays of culinary skill are in the large plates. The gnocchi ($15) were stellar: impossibly light, fluffy and tossed in a light chicken stock with Italian sausage and spinach. We were also treated to a special shrimp risotto dish by chef Gregory Dooner that evening that was equally well crafted. We hope it gets added to the regular menu very soon.
Desserts were just as impressive as the courses that came before. The panna cotta flavored with orange and pistachios was refreshingly creamy and sparingly sweet. The ricotta doughnuts were a decadent treat (we think “damn good” was uttered at some point) resting in a berry compote.
Whether you want to get pleasantly intoxicated by food or drink, you’ll definitely want to be a regular at Kris.