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Posted at 9:14 AM ET, 01/10/2011

Ardeo + Bardeo picks up a new chef

By Tom Sietsema

Updated as of 3:54 p.m. Jan. 11.

Ardeo + Bardeo, the recent merger of two dining concepts in Cleveland Park, isn't even two months old, but owner Ashok Bajaj has already replaced his opening chef Alex McWilliams with Nate Garyantes.

"I want to be known as the best restaurant in the neighborhood," says the veteran restaurateur, who spent $1.2 million on fusing and furnishing the former modern American dining room and wine bar. Bajaj says the split with his former Ardeo chef, whose contract was ending, was an amicable one.

Garyantes, 37, had already been in his new boss's employ for a month, working under chef Tony Conte at the Oval Room downtown, when Bajaj tapped him for the top job at Ardeo + Bardeo. The fresh face has the chops to deliver: Garyantes spent the last two years in Penn Quarter at Cafe Atlantico and its famous sibling, the experimental Minibar, where he rose to become executive sous chef. Before that, the Delaware native and former Army soldier was the owner and chef of the critically-acclaimed Restaurant 821 in Wilmington (now closed).

Garyantes is adding two of his 50 or so ideas a day to the menu at Ardeo + Bardeo (which, food lovers should know, is pronounced "plus" rather than "and"). Among the new small plates are a sun-dried cherry flatbread with roasted garlic and Parmesan; head cheese made with a 50-pound suckling pig Garyantes bought and broke down; rock shrimp risotto with sea beans and lemon; and a spinach salad with braised fennel and crisp gnocchi.

"No hydrocolloids," says the chef, referring to the gelling agents he relied on at Minibar.

By Tom Sietsema  | January 10, 2011; 9:14 AM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  | Tags:  Tom Sietsema  
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