Ardeo + Bardeo, Cleveland Park

(See the December 29th, 2010 Review here.)

Congratulations to Dave Pressley, the new GM at Ardeo + Bardeo. When I called, Dave was able to get me a two-top on Friday night at 6 PM which is no small feat considering this place was pretty packed by 7:30 or so.

It was a leisurely dinner, starting with a Gin Blossom ($10) made with 209 gin, Absolut wild tea vodka, Lilet Blanc, and fresh lemon juice. This balanced drink was a soothing way to unwind into the meal, but by the time we got around to finishing it, the considerable amount of ice rendered it slightly dilute.

I solicited the advice of both Daves (our wonderful server was also named Dave), and cobbled together what turned out to be a very good meal.

Ardeo + Bardeo’s menu contains fully ten different sections (savory snacks, vegetables, charcuterie, cheeses, small bites, soup and salads, pizzas di grano arso, pastas, seafood, and meats). I tend to shy away from soups and salads at dinner, but in this case I’m glad I didn’t.

Chicken Soup ($9) with hominy, green chile broth, and avocado was a zippy twist on a posole, the chiles and avocado added à la minute for maximum freshness. Though it cooled quickly, it was a fine soup even at room temperature, and not a drop remained.

Spinach Salad ($9) came with full leaves of spinach, slightly overdressed with truffle vinaigrette which was cut by braised fennel and crisp gnocchi. This was a good salad that could have been even better without the truffle oil, and had the gnocchi been freshly crisped (they were really good gnocchi, but were at room temperature).

I tend not to like wines imported by Robert Kacher, but I liked the price point of the 2009 Chateau Guiot Rosé ($30), a grenache/syrah blend from the Costières de Nimes appellation. This was a very “red” rosé, almost Spanish in nature, that I thought might go well with the pastas; I was wrong, and I would have strongly preferred a pale, bone-dry version from Provence or thereabouts.

It’s telling that the Rabbit Bolognese ($14) gets top billing over the ricotta agnolotti because there’s a lot of it, and along with the carrot puree (get it? rabbit, carrots?), made this primarily a sauce dish although these firm agnolotti certainly held their own.

The Bolognese dish was fine, but the star of the night, and the one truly great dish, was a daily special of Lamb Ragout that Dave (actually, both Daves) insisted on us trying. And thank goodness they did, too. The ragout is made with braised lamb neck, sweetbreads, and smoked lamb tongue (!) served atop mint spaghetti (!) with chili flakes and ricotta salata. How good was this dish? It was as good as both pastas I had the night before at Tosca, and as good as any pasta dish I’ve ever had in Cleveland Park. Need I say more? World class, and needs to go on the menu as a regular item, pronto!

And, not that we needed any more food, but because I knew I’d be hungry for lunch the next day, a Rock Shrimp Pizza ($16) with lemon, garlic, and crème fraiche.  Doesn’t this sound refreshing? It is! And it was great the next day too, with an almost lox, cream cheese, and bagel aspect to it. Although these are only ten-inch pizzas, they seem larger, and are cut into eight slices – you won’t go wrong if you order this.

This was a very good dinner – better than the one I had in December, and will be long remembered for the stunning Lamb Ragout pasta dish. It’s a must try.

One recommendation: seated against the wall in a crowded dining room, this is one of the noisiest restaurants I’ve been to in quite awhile now, despite having carpeted floors and generous spacing between the tables. At times, both of us could not hear the other speak – a bit of soundproofing would go a long way here.

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