The restaurant Ripple is on a roll. In the past few months it’s been cited as one of 40 must visit restaurants by Tom Sietsema at the Post, and called one of the top 100 in the metro area by Washingtonian magazine. This past weekend my wife and I visited to see exactly what’s cooking at this Cleveland Park hot spot, located directly across from the Uptown Cinema.
Right off the bat you figure out that what Ripple wants to offer you is an experience, not just a meal. The menu tells you that all ingredients are sourced locally, with a focus on organic and sustainable farming. Our server explained how the menu was laid out, with a salad tasting first course, a “warm tasting” second course and then a “protein course about the size of a fist.” Clearly the staff has been well coached on how to set the expectations of diners.
There are only four choices per category, and according to the staff and the web site they change frequently. We both started with a very flavorful kale salad with char and an anchovy paste, a very nice mix of strong flavors. Gabriele isn’t an anchovy fan usually, and she loved the salad. We decided to skip the warm starter stage and replace it with a charcuterie board.
All three meats we chose were good, but the prosciutto was outstanding. It had a far more subtle and nuanced flavor than expected, and literally melted in our mouths. A small flat bread basket made for a good accompaniment to the board.
The wine list was extensive, and stocked with makers who followed green and organic principles. During the early courses we drank a Grochau Cellars 2010 Commuter Cuvee Pinot Noir. It was offered by both the glass and the bottle, so we had a taste prior to ordering. From Oregon’s Willamette Valley, it was light in color and body. The wine had a fresh nose and raspberry fruit was very evident, with a bit of subtle pepper and spice on the finish. It was a simple, enjoyable new world Pinot Noir.
For the entree I had the pork loin, so I ordered a glass of the 2010 Sharecropper Cabernet. Sharecropper is a second label from Owen Roe winery in Washington State, and we really like his Pinot Noir. The Cabernet has bold flavors on the nose, with a meaty texture on the palate with lots of black fruit. It’s big without being overpowering, with balanced tannins and a clean finish.
The key element at Ripple is the wonderful and often unexpected interplay of flavors. My pork loin was served with prunes, which I don’t usually like. But here the prunes worked extremely well, combined with cabbage and an anchovy bread sauce. Gabriele’s poached black bass was presented with littleneck clams, parsnips and a saffron emulsion. If you’re tired of seeing the same items on too many menus, this is your restaurant.
Service was very friendly and professional. The atmosphere was bright and lively, and there was a long and active bar in the front of the house. The noise level in our dining area got quite high, and the tables are very close to each other.
Ripple is a good place to bring the valued customer, prospect or valued employee, especially if they are a foodie. If you come here looking for a familiar meal, you’ll be disappointed. You need to arrive with an open mind, and be ready to go where the chef wants to take you.
This restaurant is synthesizing a lot of the exciting trends going on in the DC dining scene right now. Those who are ready for a detour off the dining beaten path will find out what the Ripple buzz is all about.
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Christopher Parente is managing director and partner of Strategic Communications Group, a social media and public relations consultancy based in Silver Spring, Maryland and Tysons Corner, Virginia. He also publishes Work, Wine and Wheels, a global top 500K web site as measured by Alexa, an online measurement company. You can follow Chris on LinkedIn or Twitter.