Although Roger Marmet had no restaurant experience before opening Ripple in DC’s Cleveland Park, he did have a blueprint drawn from the recent crop of local wine bars. The former head of the cable channel TLC drew up a plan with a checklist: farms named on the menu, house-made charcuterie, and an eco-conscious wine list. But in some ways, Ripple departs from the wine-bar formula.
Marmet eschews the bare-lightbulb look for a more playful feel. The front room’s 40-foot bar is a colorful mosaic of tile, and the booths in the back dining room are a patchwork of floral fabrics.
Most notable is the absence of small plates. Many dishes are sized like scaled-down entrées, and everything is less than $20. Executive chef Teddy Diggs—most recently of Blue Ridge and a former saucier at Maestro—makes a lot in-house, right down to ketchup and whole-grain mustard. His dishes can be busy, but when they come together—glazed pork belly with albacore tuna and a quail egg; sweetbreads with mushrooms, kale, and milk “jam”; duck breast with peaches and fennel—they can be very good. He sometimes trips over too many ingredients: A simple tomato panzanella (bread salad) was overdone with radishes, purslane, and a salty anchovy vinaigrette.
Consulting pastry chef David Guas, whose sweets have been found at Acadiana, PassionFish, and DC Coast, is behind such feel-good desserts as buttermilk doughnuts with blueberry compote and baked-to-order cookies with milk. In other words, endings that feel familiar—in a good way.
This article appears in the September 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.