If I hadn’t already known that I was walking into Michael Landrum’s newest restaurant, Ray’s3 (pronounced Ray’s to the third), last night, I would have been able to figure it out by the time I had ordered my drinks. First of all, the decor is very Landrum. Muted, light brown walls and recessed lighting are about all you get. Actually, compared to the original Ray’s the Steaks, which was right across Wilson Boulevard in Arlington from where Rays3 has opened, the decor is practically sumptuous. And if the ambiance and location didn’t give it away, the menu certainly would.
If you’re at all familiar with the Ray’s empire, you’ll find plenty of familiar selections at Ray’s3. Those appropriately named Devilishly Good Eggs have appeared on the menu at Ray’s the Steaks and Ray’s the Classics, as has the grilled bacon. The skillet fried chicken was perfected at Ray’s the Steaks East River, the Crab Royale has been a favorite at all three locations and the full page of milkshakes on the back of the menu comes to you courtesy of Ray’s Hell Burger.
The menu’s real focus is the full page of steak frites preparations, and here you’ll find something a little different. The choices include hanger steak, sirloin, Brazilian and filet mignon paired with a variety of sauces. We sampled the Picanha, a Brazilian-cut steak with a zippy green chile sauce, and the Bertolucci, a hangar steak served with roasted bone marrow. The steaks were both perfectly cooked medium rare with a nice char and came with bread, a pile of light, crispy fries and a mixed greens salad.
One more thing that was very Landrum: the prices. The cheapest cut comes in at $16.99 and the most expensive will put you back $33.99, but most live right around $20. It really is a good value for the quality and execution.
As we were leaving, our server apologized for any hiccups, explaining that the restaurant was still undergoing a semi-soft (his words) opening. But compared to many soft-opening experiences I’ve had, the sailing was smooth, though the place was never more than half full (maybe eight tables).
The most obvious comparison to the very young Ray’s3 is the steak frites-only concept at Medium Rare. And while that Cleveland Park restaurant is a bit more committed to the gimmick (the only choice is how you want your steak cooked), I came away favoring my experience at Ray’s. A little choice makes a big difference.
--Justin Rude, Sept. 23, 2011