We just had a meal at Ripple in Cleveland Park DC. Let me be short and pointed. It was just about the most laughable meal we have had in a very long time.
I never write when I dislike a meal - my latest post was gushing rave about a terrific place in Minneapolis, but since Ripple is closer to home I felt I should comment in the interest of making things better, which clearly Ripple has the potential of becoming.
Narrow, with a homey bar and glass enclosed local cheeses, sprinkled with plaid clothed wait staff, Ripple is located in the impossible to park neighborhood of Cleveland Park in Washington DC. Great location and lots of great spots nearby like Polena (elegant) and Medium Rare (fun).
Ripple is all about location, boasting a long list of locally raised meals. We started with their house cured prosciutto, local venison sausage and Virginia ham, olives and by far the best part of the evening - sweet potato angolotti with walnut and cabbage, it was wonderful, buttery, balanced, sweet-ish, but not overwhelming. The cocktail to accompany was a gin based Houndie - green hat gin, grapefruit bitters, some rosemary...imbalanced, but trying to be clever (which pretty much sums up the meal). And perhaps it was after the cocktail that the laughter started and for whatever reason refused to subside until sometime long after we departed the friendly place. The artesian bread (presented as "artisanal") was served with salted butter unfortunately, but well textured. The funny part was the gentlemen with the farmers’ beard, and what appeared to be butcher stained tea-shirt offering the local produce....and yes....we began to wonder just how local it might be. Then the entree kicked us into high gear on the laugh track, despite our best efforts (we are really not the ugly snobby type of eaters)...but when the 3 by 2 cube of pork fat arrived at my wife and daughter’s setting (shame on them for ordering pork belly!) we were verging on irrepressible giggle fits. But it was not the cube of lard, but the thick pasty mushroom (black trumpet) puree that accompanied it which tickled the funny bone. My son's swordfish was fine but the brown paste that was supposed to be sweet onion yoghurt, was, also, well, rather pasty... Now my steak was medium rare, well-seasoned (shared plentifully with my wife and daughter), but it was laid on a bed of millet was literally ice cold. Ah but fortunately we ordered the side of broccoli in curry yoghurt to balance everything out. But alas, while tasty, the stems were unpeeled, adding quite a bit of unintended roughage to the meal. So off to desert. We wanted to head toward the cheeses, but I could see my daughter was no longer capable of animal protein, so we opted for sweets. The pudding was more crème than pudding, but very balanced for butterscotch, not too sweet. And then to cap it off (with the bill) tiny macaroons - lots of almond, but well...sticky (a cross between almond cookie and gummy sweet).
I have to say, we have not had many meals of this degree of missteps at this price range, but the reason I take some time to consider Ripple is that it's heart is in the right place, and perhaps its ambition is just too great. Getting just a FEW things right, like the cured meats, or the stellar angolotti and maybe just one more element of the meal, and we could easily have gone from laughter to awe. Creating a consistent meal seems boring, but I think Ripple could be aim for a few less waves and just a few more...you get the picture...
I am sure Ripple is the kind of place that by being just a little more boring, it could be a whole lot better.