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Ripple ramps up the ‘wow’ factor with new finesse in the kitchen

The following review appears in The Washington Post’s 2017 Spring Dining Guide.


Of course Ryan Ratino wants patrons to enjoy the flavors of his food at the wine-themed Ripple. "But we want people to look at it and go 'Wow,' " too, says the fresh talent at the Cleveland Park restaurant, the launching pad for chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley and more than ever a dining destination. Every time I order his beet salad or citrus ambrosia, I pause to admire the thought behind it. The salad, a crimson wonder, showcases beets that have been alternately roasted, pickled, juiced, dehydrated or left raw before joining curried yogurt and ribbons of fennel on the plate. The dessert — a bowl of tapioca, diced mango and mango sherbet — arrives with sails of crisp meringue freckled with pink peppercorns. Inevitably, I'm tempted not to touch either piece of art — for about five seconds. Too precious? Not at all. Ratino proves he can also win over big appetites and bargain hunters with his eye-popping, belt-busting cote de boeuf, a strapping meal that covers the table with 35 ounces or so of succulent aged beef, creamed spinach swirled with beef ragout, toasted brioche spread with truffle butter and (be still, my heart!) potatoes cooked in marrow, butter and herbs. Would you believe the extravaganza, preceded by luscious finger foods, costs $130 for two (and easily feeds four)? Throw in some smart service, a whimsical dining room and a rich wine list, and you've got a Ripple without wrinkles.

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Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-244-7995.

Open: Dinner daily.

Prices: Entrees $28 to $65.

Sound check: 70 decibels / Conversation is easy.


The following was originally published Jan. 27, 2017.

Ripple, under Ryan Ratino, review: Happy finesse in Cleveland Park

While star chasers have been eating their way through Shaw and Petworth, something delicious has been unfolding in Cleveland Park. Bardeo became Bindaas, a source of Indian street food; Indique gave itself a makeover; and Dolan Uyghur introduced a menu of hand-pulled noodles and zesty lamb kebabs.

Ripple isn't new, but it, too, is making waves. In December, chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley left the arty American restaurant (and Roofers Union) to focus on sandwichmaking at Smoked and Stacked at the convention center. Taking her place at Ripple is Ryan Ratino, the former chef at Masa 14. In less than a month, he has put his own stamp on the place.

Beet salad might not strike anyone as a news flash. Ratino, 26, makes the starter special by omitting the usual goat cheese and nuts and putting the vegetable front and center. The salad is composed of beets offered five ways: roasted, pickled, raw (shavings), juiced and dehydrated. Sharing the plate, a crimson beauty, are curried yogurt, ribbons of fennel and preserved gooseberries.

Think Jackson Pollock tapping the Garden of Eden for inspiration.

Like the frugal butcher who uses everything from nose to tail, Ratino tries to incorporate the whole vegetable into his game. “I don’t throw anything away,” he says. Sure enough, an entree of rabbit finds front leg, belly meat and ground kidney inside triangular pansotti pasta, and shredded back leg carpeting the top. The pasta relies on some flours of the moment — rye and buckwheat, made trendy by the rise of modern Nordic cuisine — and translate to hearty and nuanced envelopes.

I already miss the chef’s hay-smoked veal, which Ratino removed when winter stayed warm and he judged the dish too heavy. But its replacement, veal schnitzel, has everyone at the table asking for seconds. The panko crust is rousing with caraway and nutmeg. Equally compelling is sauerkraut, an accessory made with root vegetables and shot through with juniper and Madeira.

The guy also has a nice way of incorporating acid into his food, sharpening the flavors of a dish.

The finesse on the plate may be explained by one of Ratino’s earlier employers, Caviar Russe in New York, whose executive chef, Ratino’s boss, worked for the legendary Alain Ducasse. The fresh face at Ripple says his time at Caviar Russe made the greatest impression on him.

The best way to experience Ratino’s creations is to take advantage of a $59 deal that lets diners pick four dishes from among as many courses, the last of which should be citrus ambrosia. Sails of crisp meringue, speckled with pink peppercorns, rise from a bowl of tapioca, diced mango and mango sherbet.

The dessert is a refreshing end to a meal that makes you wish you lived closer to the pleasure.