Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ardeo+Bardeo = One doubly-good reason to visit Cleveland Park

I have to admit that my heart sunk a bit when I found out some good friends were moving out of their conviently located (to me) U Street Corridor home to Cleveland Park. They may as well be moving all the way to Cleveland, Ohio, I feared, perhaps the same way Manhattanites feel when friends move to Brooklyn. I guess with their expanding family and having to steer the kids away from broken beer bottles from the night before, it makes sense.

I didn't know much about the neighborhood except, the Metro stop, Two Amy's Pizza and a mysterious place I kept hearing about called Ardeo+Bardeo. I'd probably heard about the Ardeo, the American bistro years before or even Bardeo, the wine bar, but I don't hear too many equations as restaurant names, so I was intrigued. Turns out this past fall, owner and well-known restaurateur, Ashok Bajaj, decided to not only renovate the two enterprises, but conjoin them into one.

The result is two doors leading into a spacious establishment with an extensive zinc bar replacing the wall that originally separated Ardeo and Bardeo. The Ardeo/restaurant side on the left first greets diners with a long 14-seat community table with a mirrored wall and then expands into a more traditional dining area decorated with a mural of black & white 1950s-style diner photos accented by cocoa-colored walls and seating. The combination exudes an almost schizophrenic reaction between the elegant decor and the nostalgically casual art. The slightly smaller Bardeo/bar side on the right is decorated with those same cocoa-colored walls, but accented with smaller black & white photos along the same theme. My favorite decoration of that side is the stone pizza oven where Chef Nate Garyantes (formerly executive sous chef at Minibar) and his team toast up some divine pizzas and flatbreads that even Two Amys regulars would salivate for. Upstairs also has a nice-sized dining room and small bar that could be used for private parties. And just in time for spring, is the new patio to enjoy our wonderful spring weather.

Their savory snacks can turn a happy hour into an elated one. In particular, I enjoyed the sweet, salty, tangy and textured combination of the pork belly, pineapple and ham skewers, while the sundried cherry and garlic flatbread intrigued me to the wonders of that clay oven. The involtini of burrata with spring vegetables wasn't very steady, so a bit messy to eat, but realized later it was because the burrata is house-made and super-fresh (forgiven!). The steak on top of fingerling "crostini" was topped with a horseradish creme fraiche, that even a typical steak & potatoes Idahoan would salivate for, although anyone who dines with me would know I would have preferred my potatoes a bit more crostini-like (crispy). And while the menu offers a nice selection of charcuterie, the horseradish potato salad that accompanies the house-cured bresaola (air-dried beef) may steal the show. However, the one dish not to be missed, regardless of how warm it may be outside, is the new potato and parmesan soup. Perfectly balanced, seasoned, textured and tasty, all my taste-buds sang with happiness at every sip. I almost want winter to come back just so I could have some more to warm me up.

So, now on to that clay oven and those pizzas I've been hinting about. It's not surprising a Jose Andres alumnus would come up with some innovatively tasty takes on typical topping combinations. After the pork bell/ham/pineapple skewer, I was more than excited to try the duck ham, pineapple, fontina, foie gras pizza. The Shakey's Hawaiian pizza that I grew up with, it was not. While it was certainly as lush as it sounded, seeing the foie gras melted everywhere made me question if it was the best use of such a premium product. Perhaps next time I should do a comparison of bites with the foie and without. The wild mushrooms, black garlic, sottocenere, fontina pizza is an excellent choice for mushroom lovers and offers a similar full-palette sensation that the potato soup did. Devout meat-lovers pizza fans can rejoice with the soppresatta, pancetta, house bacon, bresaola pizza, a bouquet of the wonders of meat. New England pizza fans would think we flew north for the dinner with the rock shrimp, lemon, garlic, creme fraiche pizza. Of course, traditionalists will love their fresh and flavorful mozzarella, tomato, basil pizza.

If you want pizza and don't want to deal with the Two Amys crowd, Ardeo+Bardeo is a very worthy alternative. I, for one, now look forward to visiting my friends after their move, and can't wait to introduce them to this place.

1 comment:

Melissa Jones said...

I totally agree! I was *just* telling Nikki and Olga about those pork belly skewers this weekend. Hawaiian pizza on a stick (um...except elegant and everything!). Great meeting you this weekend. Look forward to bumping into you again soon.