Sure, it's chic-er than thou, but the food on an early Friday night visit was really impressive. As you would expect from the Ripe people, the interior design is minimialist and exquisite, with a lot of reclaimed timber to give some warmth to the industrial vibe. The have an open kitchen, which I love. The wait staff was very, very sharp: knowledgeable about the food, attentive but not familiar, and they managed our rotating group of 10-12 with aplomb.
I was nibbling around, not doing a full dinner, so I tried several things. Tom Habetz, the chef, really has a gift for handmade pasta, which you can order in half or full portions. We tried pappardelle with fava beans and pancetta, and nettle and ricotta-filled ravioli in a browned butter sauce. Yes, nettles. The tenderness of the pasta in both cases was just amazing, neither of them were too busy or oversauced, really just perfect, comforting dishes.
I also tried a very Spanish appetizer of Serrano ham, sherry-soaked figs, and a goat's milk cheese called cana de cabra. All were top quality, especially taken with the Spanish red wine my partner was drinking and some Ken's bread (yes, $3 extra) on which to shmear the cheese.
I managed to snare a bite of a "gougere" as it passed by me, and they were gougerrific. They are essentially cheese puffs, made from a pate au choux dough with gruyere (?) then deep fried. I think they are traditionally baked. Regardless, they were fantastic bar food.
They don't have a full bar, just beer and wine, and although the wine selection was deep and wide, I was disappointed in the choice of draft beers. Only 3 on tap, Anchor Liberty, Lagunitas Pale, and a German (I think) pilsner. All fine beers, but is there not one beer in all of Oregon that deserves a place at the bar? What about our terroir? Local boys: represent!
Prices are reasonable for the quality but not cheap. The pastas were $7/$15 or so for half/full orders; other appetizers were in the high single digits; the entrees we didn't try were $18 to $23 or so. They had a really interesting menu of things you don't often see: baby octopus, mache, sweet breads, "fat duck liver" (hey, I know what that is), lacquered pork belly. They are trying to stretch Portland's comfort zone, that's for sure.
So, not that they need any more buzz, but I would highly recommend a visit. You can even take MAX.
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