While restaurateur Ashok Bajaj was expanding his empire with Bibiana (opened in winter 2009) and Rasika (he announced recently there’s a new one coming next year), two of his old standbys—Ardeo and its adjacent wine bar, Bardeo—languished. Our initial visit to the newly merged and spruced up Ardeo + Bardeo—which is already on its second kitchen leader, former Minibar sous chef Nate Garyantes—left us with mixed feelings.
A plate of Disco Fries satisfied salty cravings with shaved ricotta salata and a ramekin of gravy, but a disk of fried head cheese was greasy and its accompanying frisée salad overly seasoned. There was nothing technically wrong with the braised suckling pig—a dish loaded with tender pork—but it could have used some acid or smoke. Although a bowl of rabbit bolognese with agnolotti was delicious, another pasta, the lobster puttanesca, was brought down with mushy seafood and an overpowering sauce. Cheesecake was as light as mousse and an elegant way to end the meal. We can’t say the same about the clumsy apple cobbler.
Bibiana had similar growing pains in the beginning, though, and we anticipate that Ardeo + Bardeo will hit its stride soon enough. Bajaj rarely settles for anything less than perfection.
Ardeo + Bardeo, 3311 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-244-6750. Open Monday through Friday for dinner, Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner.
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