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Thursday, March 1, 2012


Plaudits: Washingtonian 2012 Top 100
Neighborhood: Cleveland Park

The Setup

Needing a group dinner spot in Cleveland Park, Official Friends of DCWD Swizzle, EZ, Stormtrooper, and Jay, and Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas joined me at relative newcomer Ripple.

The Vibe

Ripple is composed of two side by side rooms: a bar and the main dining area. The former is a white space with beige trim, with one row of high bar table two-tops along one wall parallel to the long bar. Overhead are some caged bulbs, with some red lampshaded wall mounts providing some additional light to an otherwise dim space. The most prominent feature is a charcuterie table right at the end of the bar, with glass cloches covering exotic looking cheeses on a metal cart.

On the other side is the main space with a wall of half-booth twos and fours upholstered in a quilt-like motley collection of fabric and backed by a wall that's half metallic red and half tan and ecru stripes (a combination that seems very strange). The rest of the decor is similarly jumbled: while the tables are all wood (including an eight seat repurposed-wood chef's table in a separate section in the back), half the chairs are metal; garage lights hang over the chef's table, but vintage chandeliers are over everything else; and the wall decorations are a collection of vintage black and white photos, large red paintings, and circular mirrors. The one constant is an overwhelming blend of red and white that colors the space.

The Food

We started with a charcuterie plate, following our server's recommendation, which was lovely. Among some of the selections was some speck, a lou bergier pichin sheep's milk, and a capriole sofia goat cheese from Indiana (pretty good), a l'amuse gouda from holland (fantastic), and the chicken liver parfait (wonderful).

Between the six of us, we ordered two appetizers. First was the far and away best part of the night: a black quinoa risotto colored further by squid ink, with spicy crab and lemon. This dish was superlative on every level, but especially great was how it took normally polarizing aspects of its ingredients and harnessed them: the salty ink was balanced with the acid of the lemon, the mealy texture of quinoa smoothed out by the risotto preparation. What resulted was a incredibly subtle blend of powerful "I can't stop eating this" flavors, culminating in some of the best risotto bites I've ever had.

Our other appetizer was the lamb polpettini with grilled octopus, almond puree, and radishes. This was a decent dish, though one probably diminished by the enthusiasm our group had for the other appetizer. The combination, though ostensibly disparate, was decent, though the radishes threatened to overtake the whole dish, both in composition and flavor profile. In retrospect, the dish was perfectly fine, though sort of unmemorable.

For the entrees, I went with the lamb with black garlic, chorizo, sunchokes, and sesame yogurt. All of the entrees suffered from one immediate problem: really poor plating. I get the whole scattered look, and the smear thing, but there's a point where it's just messy and unappetizing; these dishes danced that fine line. All of the ingredients should have lined this one up to be great, but it was surprisingly bland, with no real blending of any of the formidable flavors on the dish.

Swizzle faced something similar in terms of blandness with her poached black bass with celeriac brandade and shrimp in a saffron emulsion. This was probably the most visually composed of all the dishes, but it also was probably the blandest. Poached black bass is great for texture, but it can also lock in amazing flavors. This did the former, but not the latter. Instead, almost all of the taste was from the saffron, which was light at best.

Texas's pork loin, like the lamb, was scattered all over the plate, and had the appearance of grilled spam. As for its actual taste, it was slightly overcooked with a flavor almost like ham, and a interesting blend of side tastes with savoy cabbage, prunes, and an anchovy-bread sauce. It was alternatively salty and mushy.

Stormtrooper and EZ both had the strip loin with black eyed pea puree, bulgur wheat, beech mushroom, and salsa verde. We didn't discuss it much, other than to say it was fine, but maybe a little overpriced considering the quality.

For dessert, the table had two of the selections: vanilla profiteroles in orange cardamom ice cream and cocoa streusel in chamomile syrup; and a double chocolate financier with orange marshmallow, black pepper caramel, and an oat cocoa nib tuile. Both were a little dry, and sort of encapsulated the night.

The Verdict

One amazing dish overshadowed by a lot of bland ones.

Food Rating: ** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 3 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Bar Rating:
Quiet Drinks
(out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)
: It's slowly starting to warm up, so head down to the Zoo and check out the coming-out-of-hibernation animals.

Ripple on Urbanspoon

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