A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to attend the official grand opening of a new restaurant in Old City, Ardiente. After previewing the menu online before the opening, we were really excited about going to this new restaurant. There cuisine is a fusion of Asian and Latin flavors, and boy did they nail it.
When you first walk into the restaurant, your eyes wander all over. The place is beautifully decorated. There is something to see everywhere. The decor and lighting, especially the lighting, plays a big part in the overall dining experience. Every part of the restaurant evokes a different emotion based on the lighting. There is subtle, sexy, intrigue and mystery depending on where you are in the restaurant. And I haven’t even touched on the best part. Downstairs, there is an amazing, cozy, sexy speakeasy setting that is to die for. The most difficult decision you will face is where you want to be seated, upstairs or downstairs!
The menu this night was chosen by the chef. We started with the spicy edamame that was roasted. It was delicious. As you bite through the skin to get to the seeds, the fire roasted taste was predominant and perfect. The next course was fresh burrata with fire roasted bread which again was delicious. The bread, even though fire roasted, was not over cooked. and the burrata was freshly made and just heavenly.
Our next course was a traditional ceviche that consisted of the fish of the day, leche de tigre and tostones. It was to die for! Eric, who was born in Puerto Rico, claimed that these were the best tostones he’s ever had outside Puerto Rico. The ceviche was amazing! It was so fresh and light and the paired tostones paired perfectly with it. Next up were their vegetarian dumplings which were so good. Perfectly cook, not too fried, not to doughy. It was seasoned perfectly and with each bite, you got a full taste of vegetables. They certainly didn’t skimp when they stuffed the dumplings.
Next up was their spare ribs. These may have been the best spare ribs I’ve ever tasted! The meat just fell off the bone! It was so juicy and moist, seasoned perfectly, I could have eaten these all night. The next item served to us was the chilled soba noodles. Let me just say, everything up until now was perfect. Would they continue their streak? Yes they would and with flying colors! The sesame dressing, chilies, edamame and cucumber were such a wonderful paring. It was a nice, refreshing change and absolutely delicious. If you have as good a palate as me, tell me what the mystery ingredient was included on my Facebook page!
The food didn’t stop and we were next served shaved brussels sprouts which were absolutely incredible. Served with poached pears and preserved lemon vinaigrette, they tasted amazing. To break things up, they served a wonderful arugula salad with crispy wontons, pears and shaved parmesan. It was a wonderful pallet cleanser and tasted delicious. The bitterness of the arugula with the sweetness of the pear was a match made in heaven.
Onward, we felt we were borderline full, but the staff are master of pacing the meal. Never did they rush each course. They gave you enough time to digest your food without coming out with the next dish. And the food kept coming. Next up was the crispy Cornish hen. This is a tricky dish. It’s easy to overcook and if you do, it will be dry and tasteless. Undercook the hen, and you might as well toss it back with their living counterparts! This was cooked perfectly. How is it that the chefs here could continually cook everything perfectly? To this day, I don’t know but they did it. The hen was hot, juicy and tender. Served with baby greens, and a lemongrass sauce, you could see that Asian Latino fusion in every dish.
The next dish was one of my favorites of the night, a beautifully cooked cauliflower with pecans, lime and cilantro. Absolutely delicious! The level of flavor was just incredible. Mixing the salt of the pecans, the tartness of the lime and the punch of the cilantro is genius. This dish was like art on a plate. The final serving was a jasmine rice, scallion and crispy chicharron fried rice. It was simply brilliant. Chicharron can be salty but paired with the jasmine rice was just amazing. Trust me when I say, every dish was perfect. I had zero complaints.
Drinks! With all this wonderful food, how could I forget the amazing drinks! All night, they were serving Tattinger Champagne which was delicious! On top of that, we ordered their take on a classic cosmopolitan with Swedish Fish and white cranberry juice. Eric ordered the Hotel Nacional, mainly because it had Don Q Anejo rum which is one of the finest rums in the world. I also ordered the Szechuan Sangria which was amazing. It had blended red wine, Grand Marnier brandy, Chinese five spice, Szechuan peppercorn syrup, along with fresh apples, oranges and Asian pear. At nine dollars a glass, this will be the sangria to end all sangrias. It was the prefect balance of sweet, spice and smoothness. I could have ordered an entire pitcher and still not had enough.
Now for dessert. Yes, the food-fest wasn’t done yet. They brought out a sampler of mini-cakes and mousses. They consisted of passion fruit, chocolate and strawberry shortcake. All there were delicious. The perfect balance of texture, flavor and smoothness. It was the perfect size bites to end a perfect dinner. On top of that, I ordered a wonderful cup of cappuccino. It was delicious and paired perfectly with our desserts.
It’s not too often that I go to a restaurant and get totally blown away, especially if it’s a new restaurant. You would expect some glitches or mistakes on a grand opening. We call it growing pains but it’s to be expected. Ardiente has zero growing pains, zero mistakes, zero glitches. By the end of the night, we couldn’t wait to go back! The decor and lighting of the restaurant, the food, the service, everything was perfect. You have to go to Ardiente. What are you waiting for? Go now!