Dining and Dating District Style: Ardeo+Bardeo

As this is my fourth outing for my column, Dining and Dating District Style, you might assume that I have already found a place great for a third date. I’d be logical (and numerical) to assume that my culinary capers had already led me to the final tier of my 3 date rating system; however, just like my attempts to dance “Gangnam Style,” sometimes things don’t go as expected. Enter my fourth try and Ardeo + Bardeo (3311 Connecticut Ave., NW) located in Cleveland Park.

Ardeo Dining Room. Photo by Andrew Lightman

Prior to 2010, Ardeo, the modern bistro and Bardeo, the wine bar were two separate restaurants, but a major renovation in 2010 combined them into one (hence the plus sign). The joining yields a unique experience. The original Bardeo side is a bit smaller and manages to maintain a cozy wine bar atmosphere; while the Ardeo side is more narrow and features artistic photographs that provides a bit of warmth to the modern space. I knew the moment that I walked in that I had a strong contender for a third date restaurant.

Ambiance: A friend of mine once referred to Cleveland Park as an “adult playground.” She said it was a place packed with places befitting mature and modern Washingtonians. Ardeo+Bardeo’s atmosphere fits the mold of the neighborhood clientele. It is polished and modern while maintaining the warm feel of a neighborhood restaurant.

None of this is surprising considering it is owned by Ashok Bajaj, the man behind Rasika (where I stopped for my last Dining and Dating District Style piece). While we sat at the restaurant to enjoy the sunlight and people watching, there isn’t a bad seat to be found in the house (especially if you are looking for a more secluded seat and an intimate conversation).

Food: The food at Ardeo+Bardeo is 100% at home in a place that is a “modern bistro.” Executive Chef Nate Garyantes, formerly of Jose Andres’ Minibar, has crafted a unique menu that does not shy away from pushing traditional boundaries. Nearly every dish we looked at had us raising an eyebrow or drooling at the mouth (I know ladies; a drooling man on a date is exactly what you want).

Marinated Chickpeas

For a starter, I highly recommend the Marinated Chickpeas with goat cheese, arugula, and carrots. It was flavorful, moist (wonderful considering so many chickpea dishes are often too dry), and pulled all of the flavors together fantastically. I will also personally send a hand written thank you card to whoever can find out what farm the goat cheese was from (I forgot to ask in the midst of wine and…well…more wine).

If you are in need of something a bit more traditional, you cannot go wrong with the “cheese fries.” While cheese fries are generally a faux-pas when it comes to dates, I dare you to not enjoy fries that come with a light cheddar fondue and diced bacon. While most people hope their dates end someplace sinful, this is a sin that can come at the beginning of the date.

Corn Gnocchi with Butter Poached Rock Shrimp and Corn Emulsion

Perhaps our favorite dish was the Corn Gnocchi with Butter Poached Rock Shrimp, and Corn Emulsion. I have never exactly thought of corn as a sexy ingredient, or one that leaves you wowed, but this dish was pleasantly surprising. The shrimp was incredibly succulent and the corn gnocchi was a nice change of pace to traditional potato gnocchi.

Drinks: One of the most impressive aspects of Ardeo+Bardeo is the expansive wine list. The wine selection spans the globe and is very reasonably priced. You can stop rubbing your eyes; I did say that something in DC was reasonably priced. There will be not wallet busting here in search of a glass of the nectar of the gods.

While there are bottles and glasses for everyone, my personal wine recommendations would be a bottle of the 2008 Cousino-Macul ‘Finis Terrae’ (a blend that is fantastic and a steal of a price at Ardeo) or a glass of the Conde de Jauregui Tempranillo (my standard go to is a glass of Tempranillo). Their cocktail menu, while a bit limited, is in no way disappointing. While none of the drinks call my name, the Elderflower Royale (Montelliana Prosecco, St. Germain Elderflower Liquor, and a Lemon Twist) has been the companion of choice for many of my friends.

Wine and People Watching

Wine and People Watching

Neighborhood: Unless you or your date lives nearby Cleveland Park, a date to Ardeo+Bardeo will likely be a bit of an excursion for you and the one you seek to woo. But, as I alluded to earlier, this “adult playground” makes up for the journey with a variety of options for pre or post-date activities.

Looking to do something outdoors? The National Zoo is just a short stroll down Connecticut Avenue. Want to do the traditional dinner and a movie? The historic Uptown movie theater is just a short walk away from the front doors of Ardeo+Bardeo. Parking is a premium in Cleveland Park, so I recommend that you take advantage of metro unless you want to risk driving around for 20 minutes with your date.

Recommendation: Third Date restaurant. That’s right my dear readers, I said Third Date (the fourth time is the charm). The third date is the date where you have gotten past the initial awkward dating moments and will hopefully begin to develop a meaningful connection. The restaurant should mirror that and support that connection. It should be warm, intimate, seductive, and give you and your plenty to talk about

Ardeo+Bardeo aptly fits that description. The moment you walk in, you are welcomed by an atmosphere is intimate and comfortable. From then on out, everything fits the bill; from a superb wine list to dishes that will definitely have you and your date thinking of ways to burn off the calories.

Sean O’Brien is Dining in DC’s only (and therefore strongest and most intelligent) male contributor. Before he became a Daywalker, Sean was a bartender and bar manager for longer than his parents care to admit. A Marylander born and raised, Sean has spent the better part of his twenties exploring and tasting DC from every corner. His wish for the world is that every week involve crabs, bacon, Saison-style beer, bourbon or Old Bay.

When he is not working or eating, Sean is likely to be found biking or hiking around DC. Follow him on Twitter at @sotweets, but be prepared for sarcasm and comments about people who say “YOLO” (You only live once) or “totes.”

*Dining in DC was not financially compensated for this post. Contributor did not receive a complimentary meal. The opinions are completely based upon experience.*

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