[STAND-UP FOOD] Modernist cuisine is the closest that chefs ever get to telling jokes. You see the ingredients on the menu, and then the form they take when the dish shows up is the punch line: the shock of the unexpected, the little thrill of recognition when you understand what the hell just happened amid the foams and the reductions and the sous-vide cookery. The airy, friendly, sleek-but-not-slick Ración is maybe like Ellen DeGeneres or Bill Cosby in that regard: talented, approachable, not quite edgy but hard not to like. The 10-item menu of raciones (small plates) is uniformly fun, light, attractive and priced between $10 and $14, less at happy hour. It's accompanied by an equally playful cocktail menu that'll smoke its ice and double down on aquavit with star anise syrup. Among recent standout raciones, a cold-poached albacore ($14) was topped with the actual cold of strawberry sorbet, along with baby wasabi as a shout-out to the sushi standby. Serrano ham ($12), meanwhile, came equipped with unlikely forms of things the pigs themselves would eat: peanut puree, dandelion greens, smoked huckleberry jam. So you eat what the pig eats, while also eating the pig. It's a good joke. Edgy, even. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
As a pair, you can easily cobble together your own piecemeal tasting menu for well under the $55 price tag of the five-course meal.