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Dinner at Ardesia

*Check out my pictures from this meal *here*

  •  Cuisine: Tapas, Wine bar
  •  Scene: Warm, comfortable, feels like an extension of a friend’s living room
  •  Occasion: Small plates, pre-party dining, 1x1, great for groups, bar scene, open late
  •  Must try: Homemade NY Style Pretzels, $7
  •  Price: All items under $30
  •  Reservations: Via phone
  •  Phone: (212) 247-9191
  •  Website: www.ardesia-ny.com 
  •  Location: 510 W. 52nd St., (btw 10th & 11th Avenues


What’s the space like?

Have you ever eaten at Aureole in Las VegasIf not, picture this: sky-high ceilings, a dramatic glass-enclosed display of suspended wine bottles, and an elegantly simplistic décor.  Pair all of that grandeur with the humble comfort of your living room (i.e. a place where you go to unwind and relax), or “room” if you live in Manhattan, and you’ve got Ardesia.   

My only complaint about this restaurant, detail-wise, would be the tiny tables that are literally the width of two forearms in which food is presented to the customer.  I get that Ardesia is a “small plates” restaurant and all, but come on!  I don’t understand the logic.  Smaller table space = less food

ordered.  Bigger table space = more food ordered.  More food ordered = more money.  Hopefully, this is just a temporary solution while the restaurant awaits a furniture delivery. 

 How was the service?
As this is a brand new venue, I found the staff to be very accommodating and attentive.  I hope that lasts!
What did you drink?

Roll your eyes if you may; call me a “wine idiot” if you want, I don’t really care.  Like I do on many most occasions, I enjoyed a couple of glasses of a cloyingly sweet Muscat dessert wine.  

How was the food?

Being that Ardesia’s food menu consists of tapas (appetizers, canapés, snacks); Dara, ak.a. www.theskinnypignyc.com, and I were able to order a variety of small plates to share.     

  • Homemade NY Style Pretzels: While studying Ardesia’s list of offerings on menupages.com (prior to my visit), I must say that this truly caught my eye.  And how could it not?  Being a sucker for anything and everything baked, I could not stop fantasizing about taking my first bite of this rarely-homemade treat.  A black rectangular slate arrived with two “street vendor sized” pretzels accompanied by a bowl of each: hotter-than-hell Dijon mustard and a cheese fondue.  Fluffy, bread-y and warm on the inside, the pretzel’s exterior was baked to a perfect golden brown and dusted with just-the-right-amount of sea salt.  Although the Dijon mustard violently attacked my nasal cavity, it paired so well with the pretzels that I kept going back for more (like a damn sadomasochist). I found the cheese fondue to be lukewarm and more in-line with a roux than a fromage.  It lacked that definitive cheesy pungency.
  • Manchego Artequeso: A decently-sized hunk of this Spanish-born raw sheep’s milk cheese was accompanied by a small cluster of chopped hazelnuts drizzled with honey.  Mild, buttery and salty, the cheese paired beautifully with the earthy nuts and sweet honey. 
  • House-made charcuterie, veal cocktail sausages:  I’ve developed not only an appreciation, but also a passion, for house-made sausage/charcuterie.   Dara and I were presented with three plump weenies, each about the height of a pinky finger and the girth of a thumb.  The pale grey coloring of the veal was a bit off-putting, but its rich composition and velvety, buttery texture made up for its unsightly appearance.  Notes of salt, garlic and a perky mystery spice accentuated the delicate flavor of the meat.     
  • Garlic shrimp skewers:  A small plate arrived with two short wooden skewers each stabbing four plump shrimp.  While there was nothing wrong with this dish, I found the shellfish to be overly greasy and lacking in the robust garlic flavor that I was craving.  I had to wonder, were the shrimp deep fried?  It’s situations like this one where the best explanation I can give you is what I like to call my "fajita theory": Ooooooo, that sizzle…that whiff of steam…that intoxicating smell!!  And what is this sensory overload followed with?  A buzz kill-induced slap in the face!  Yep, that’s right.  The fajitas always smell better and look sexier than they actually taste, and the same holds true for Ardesia’s garlic shrimp. 
  • Pastrami sandwich:  How good does this description sound: house-cured and smoked pastrami, caramelized Vidalia onions and cameo apples served on a Sullivan Street Stecca loaf?  Aside from the pretzels, this was the other dish that Dara and I were really eager to try.  What arrived was more along the lines of a dried-out Panini: grilled, almost crunchy bread stuffed with deliciously moist and lean slices of pastrami, and an unidentifiable small amount of “caramelized Vidalia onions and cameo apples.”  Had the sandwich been lathered with a creamy spread (honey mustard, perhaps) and some melted Swiss, it would have been damn well near perfect. 
  • Hazelnut ice cream sandwich: I felt like a young girl at summer camp eating this nostalgic, and a bit fancier than store-bought, treat: a thick rectangular slab of earthy hazelnut ice cream came sandwiched between two homemade chocolate cookies.  Ah, if only the weather was warmer and the sun was shining…*sigh* 
  • S’mores: Separately, I loved every single ingredient of this dessert.  Gooey, melted marshmallow?  Check.  Warm, drizzled chocolate?  Check.  Homemade cinnamon graham crackers? Check, check, check.  Unfortunately though, all three components were equally as sweet, which made their union slightly flavorless.  Perhaps the graham crackers could be made with less sugar; or maybe each s’more could be topped with a small sprinkle of sea salt for contrast.        
What’s pricing like?

Here’s a snapshot of our bill:

  • Homemade NY Style Pretzels: $7
  • Manchego Artequeso: $5.50
  • House-made charcuterie, veal cocktail sausages: $5
  • Garlic shrimp skewers: $10
  • Pastrami sandwich: $12
  • Hazelnut ice cream sandwich: $7
  • S’mores: $7     
Will you return to Ardesia?

If I am in the neighborhood, which isn’t often, I would return to Ardesia.  In my opinion, this is not a destination restaurant/lounge; however, if you live in the area, it’s a great option for a glass of wine and a couple of snacks. This is a sweet little spot and I hope that, even with regards to its awkward location, Ardesia will succeed.

On my visit, Ardesia’s wine list made no mention of a moscato d’asti or a brachetto d’aqui.  I find this strange that an establishment thatlabels itself a “wine bar” would not carry one or both of these sweet, sparkling pours. 

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