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 translates 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.
3417 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-244-7995. rippledc.com. Entrees, $19 to $39.