Living in the city, I know I am lucky in my dining-out choices. Whether I am craving a favorite old standby, or want to head out to the latest DC hot spot, most are no further than a train or cab ride away, a too-convenient reality that often sees me heading out my door when the dinner bell rings. But for all the great dining choices available to me that require traveling, few hold quite the same appeal as those I can walk to and enjoy in my own neighborhood, which is why when offered the chance to dine at Ardeo+Bardeo recently for this article, I couldn’t say yes quickly enough.
Located at 3311 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Ardeo+Bardeo has been a Cleveland Park favorite since 1998, but it wasn’t until 2010 that Ardeo+Bardeo emerged in its current incarnation: a sleek, wide-open space dominated by a gorgeous 24-seat bar and enormous wood-fire burning oven. In addition to bar seating, the restaurant also offers traditional seated dining in the main room, as well as upstairs on the rooftop deck. Helmed by Executive Chef Nate Garyantes, who I had the pleasure to meet when he stopped by our table, Ardeo+Bardeo calls itself a modern bistro, and it’s easy to see why.
Serving traditional thin-crust pizzas and flatbreads, as well as a bevy of vegetables, fruits, cured meats, soups and salads, the menu at Ardeo+Bardeo changes seasonally, and is varied enough to offer a taste that should suit just about anyone’s palate. What started off as a tasting of a few starters (Ardeo’s divine flatbread with sundried cherries and garlic as well crispy brussell sprouts with pistachios, apricots and yogurt; and delicate house made Burrata cheese with zesty marinated cherry tomato panzanella) turned into a feast of eleven dishes that made me extremely glad I had gone for a run before meeting my friend. After settling in with a beautiful Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc, the attentive staff at Ardeo+Bardeo began drifting out of the kitchen with plate after plate of amazing food for us to try, and who was I to say no? At the encouragement of my dining companion, after our starters we moved onto the chilled corn soup with popcorn shoots served over fluffy popcorn kernals. Rich, creamy and with a salty-sweet tang, I wasn’t sure what I would think of cold soup poured over popcorn, but all I can say is if for no other reason, this soup is worth a trip uptown (or downtown!) on the Red Line before Chef Nate takes it off the menu.
Following soup, the kitchen presented us with manila clams served with pork belly, chorizo and chick peas in a zesty, robust broth that I could have eaten by the tablespoonful; smoky, silky chicken liver mousse crowned with a pale green halo of duck fat and served with grilled flatbread; Yellowfin tuna tartare with pistachios and insanely pink grilled watermelon; and finally – an ingenious scallop schnitzel: scallops pounded delicately flat, then breaded and quick fried to a crispy golden brown and served with sweet onion puree, pickled peaches (yum!) and pecan brown butter. Even knowing we had just been chowing down on about eight dishes, neither my friend nor I could stop ourselves from continuing to graze when the kitchen sent out yet again another round of food. And whether we should have been happy or afraid by this point, I can’t say. What I can say is, when one of Ardeo’s gorgeous, artisan pizzas was placed before us, as well as a selection of homemade pastas, I figured an extra-long run the next day would be worth the indulgence, and I was right.
Baked in a traditional wood-fired oven, the pizza at Ardeo+Bardeo has a delicately thin-crust and is sized to serve two people comfortably. Although I normally go for the traditional mozzarella, tomato and basil pie because I adore the fresh simplicity of this combination, the pizza Chef Nate prepared for us might be a new favorite: house bacon, aged cheddar, grilled corn and basil atop a crispy, blistered crust was bright and savory, with a satisfying crunch and just the right amount of garlic.
Joining the pizza was a ridiculously tender and succulent seven hour braised leg of suckling pig served with cheese grits, blackeyed peas, redeye gravy and peanuts; a pork cacciatore nestled on a bed of thick, ribbony black pepper fettuccini and house pancetta; and finally – rabbit Bolognese with delicious billowy ricotta agnolotti and carrot puree. As we finally pushed back from the table and were offered dessert, I had to throw in the towel. Normally game for anything sweet, and as much as I was dying to try the peach turnover with peach compote, creme Anglais and vanilla-blackberry ice cream, after 11 courses, I had to content myself with finishing my glass of wine, wrapping up a great conversation, and the promise to myself to return again – soon – to give the dessert menu a whirl…and maybe that Popcorn soup, if I’m lucky.
Ardeo+Bardeo is open Monday through Thursday: 5:00pm – 10:30pm, Friday and Saturday: 5:00pm – 11:30pm, and open Sunday from 5:00 – 10:00pm. The restaurant also serves a Champagne brunch Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 – 3:00pm, and on Sunday and Monday nights, enjoy Pie & Wine at the bar or the gorgeous communal table. Just $15 bucks gets you one of Ardeo’s delightful pizzas and a glass of wine.
Ardeo+Bardeo is conveniently located on the Red Line in Cleveland Park, and for those traveling via car, the restaurant also offers curbside valet parking services. For more information, please visit their website, or call: 202-244-6750.