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The Ripple Inn: Sophisticated supping

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The recent unveiling of plans for a 22-room boutique hotel in Broad Ripple promises to add a new dimension to a district already known for its commercial offerings — especially its restaurants. Hotel guests, by definition, eat out and, in Broad Ripple, they'll have numerous dining options within walking distance of their lodgings.

Among those options, newly arrived The Ripple Inn shows signs of becoming a preferred destination.

The Ripple Inn is located in what local lore alleges was a house of ill-repute, built to service workers who dug the canal back in the 1830s. The most recent occupant of this corner piece of prime real estate was The Broad Ripple Steak House.

The new owners have opened up the interior of the place, opting for subtly cool colors accented by a generous selection of work by local artists to be rotated on a periodic basis. The white tablecloth ambiance is complemented by indirect lighting suspended from the ceiling by a curvilinear track.

Our knowledgeable and efficient server set us up with drinks, including a decanted glass of Tiamo Pinot Grigio ($8) and a particularly well-mixed Manhattan from the bar ($6.50), while we perused a menu that struck a nice balance between focus and variety. Casual diners may be content to order from a selection of starters that includes a Chorizo-Chicken Strudel ($10), Filet Mignon Tartar ($12) or the house specialty, Ripple Skins ($8), that are served with cured salmon, duck confit or lobster, to name just a few variations.

We opened with a pair of salads. The Field Greens ($7) provided a bright mound of fresh lettuces with sweet grape tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, bits of apple and blue cheese, topped by a champagne-basil vinaigrette. The Wedge ($6) was served on a surprisingly large platter employed like an artist's canvas for a composition making use of good-sized cubes of applewood smoked bacon, split grape tomatoes, crushed candied pecans and dried cranberries — all of which were united by a just-creamy-enough blue cheese dressing.

Entrees offer selections of beef, poultry, pork, seafood and, yes, three vegetarian options. I steered toward the seafood, a Mediterranean Bouillabaisse ($22), comprised of shrimp, mussels, and clams with sizable chunks of salmon, grouper and squid in a pernod-citrus-smoked tomato broth, with a couple of slices of grilled ciabatta toast for dunking. None of the ingredients were overcooked; all tasted fresh, succulent and distinctive. And the broth was an aromatic triumph, rich without being cloying, with, I thought, a slight whisper reminiscent of curry.

My partner tucked into the Provencal Vegetable & Capriole Goat Cheese "Wellington" ($15), a golden-brown pastry sheltering mushrooms, goat cheese, asparagus shoots, oven-roasted tomato pesto and basil Florentine in a splendid balancing act that harmonized textures with warm yet fresh flavors.

We shared an order of Apple Crisp ($6) for dessert. This "crisp," a scrumptious blend of pureed apples and pomegranate, topped with a ball of handmade vanilla ice cream, crushed pecans and a light drizzle of lemon cream, was actually closer in texture to a muffin, but we weren't complaining. It was perfectly warm at the center, satiny sweet and a little tart. A truly graceful finish to a thoroughly satisfying meal.

The Ripple Inn is still tweaking its menu — and its space. Starters like the Skins, and sandwiches, are likely to find themselves on a special bar menu for new upstairs club, The 929, opening this Wednesday, Nov. 24. And since Executive Chef Michael Powell is alert to seasonal, regional and local variations and offerings, some dishes will come and go depending on what's fresh and available.

The Ripple Inn is a sophisticated addition to dining options in Broad Ripple. Now is the time to discover it — before the tourists do.

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