Still reeling from the recent closure of Palena, it's easy to forget that there are still lots of other great places to eat in Cleveland Park. One place in particular, Ripple, may be the heir-apparent to the title of Cleveland Park's best restaurant. We paid it a visit recently to judge whether its worthy.
When Ripple first opened in 2010, it was billed as wine bar. Having since gone through a couple chef changes, it's known today as a farm-to-table restaurant and home to one of the city's hottest young chefs, Marjorie Meek-Bradley (a semifinalist this year for the James Beard Award for best chef mid-Atlantic). We hadn't yet sampled Ripple since Meek-Bradley took the helm last year, so we were eager to try her much-buzzed cooking.
|Arugula soup (top) and beet salad.|
The food at Ripple remains quite good, better I think than when we first visited several years ago.
Ripple's dedication to fresh seasonal ingredients is immediately apparent in our opening salvo of cocktails. I opt for a gibson, whose ingredients the menu says includes ramp brine--ramps being the wild leek available for a limited time in the spring that certain food lovers go nuts for. Chris springs for a Cytrus Hystrix, a sweet-and-sour concoction of kaffir lime-infused vodka ("citrus hystrix" is another term for kaffir lime), elderflower and cardamom-ginger soda. With dinner, we each had a glass of wine from Ripple's extensive by-the-glass list, a varied and interesting assortment that hearkens back to Ripple's roots as a wine bar.
My first course was the chilled arugula soup thickened with Greek yogurt. Trout roe provided little briney-salty bursts. Chris's beet salad was also satisfying, especially the dates wrapped in guanciale, a type of Italian cured meat similar to bacon.
|Roasted halibut (top) and glazed pork shoulder.|
Our entrees were also very good. I sprang for the roasted halibut, served with seasonal accompaniments of ramps, fava beans, chanterelle mushrooms and fingerling potatoes. Chris's glazed pork shoulder was tender and flavorful, served alongside path valley beans and roasted cauliflower with chermoula, an African herb and spice mixture.
For dessert, when I saw the twix mousse pie, I had to see how Ripple translated a popular brand of candy into an upscale dessert. Rather effectively it turns out, the chewy "twix," although not as crunchy as their namesake, were a nice texture contrast to the silky chocolate mousse. Tangy buttermilk sherbet was a welcome choice over the more usual vanilla.
|Twix mousse pie|
If there's a downside to Ripple, it's the cost. When the bill comes, there's a bit of sticker shock. I felt this way the first time we ate here and again when we visited recently. I'm no neophyte when it comes to restaurant prices--I've written extensively about restaurants in D.C. and New York where eating out is not exactly a bargain exercise. I may not be looking for a cheap dinner, but I am looking for value. And for some reason, Ripple doesn't quite balance the value equation in my opinion. I think that, as good as it is, there's not a "wow" factor, like a signature dish that I can't wait to come back and have again or something so unique that I can't get anywhere else. I felt similarly about Table, another farm-to-table restaurant that served us good food, but nothing truly remarkable.
That said, there is a lot to like here. Ripple offers a varied, seasonal menu in an inviting space with friendly and attentive service. It doesn't make up for the loss of Palena; there's a hole in Cleveland Park that will likely never be filled. But it's nice to see that there is still a reason why fresh food lovers should venture to this neck of the woods.
Ripple, 3417 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. (Cleveland Park). (202) 244-7995. Reservations: Open Table.