Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Bardo Edibles & Elixirs, Ghent
This weather. This past weekend, Kelly (a male Kelly - remember, Laine and I keep our guests' anonymous by giving everyone an alias) and I ran around all day, partly in Virginia Beach, so when it came time for dinner, we opted to stay in good ole Norfolk instead of driving back to the beach in the pouring rain. Kelly is from out of town and we have been to most of the good local Norfolk spots. We debated between Luna Maya (we have been there a few times) or Bardo, where we have only been once. I think I was leaning towards Luna, but I am VERY glad we opted for Bardo, an Asian-inspired Tapas restaurant.
Bardo has a large menu, composed of four tapas levels. Level one contains appetizers, levels two and three are more entree-esque selections, yet still of the small-plate tradition and level four is dessert. In the past, I have had the hot nuts (yes the dish is truly called that), the vegetable spring roll, the soba noodles and then a few desserts, the dim sum doughnuts, heaven and hell and the dessert fondue. The hot nuts were a disappointment both times I had them. The concept is good (stir-fried nuts, yum), but I swear they use the Planters mixed nut can, the one that is mostly peanuts. Boring. If Bardo used gourmet nuts, the dish would be exponentially better...where are the big, gourmet cashews! The doughnuts are served with three sauces, chocolate, caramel and raspberry and are one of Bardo's most popular preparations. The Heaven and Hell is grilled angel food cake with strawberries, caramel sauce and whipped cream. Absolutely fantastic!
My most recent visit to Bardo was my best meal there to date. It seemed we ordered everything with all of the plates near us. We probably ordered a fifth of what they offer, if that says anything about the scope of their menu. First, the edamame and tofu infused guacamole which comes with crispy wontons for dipping, the vegetable spring rolls, seaweed salad, the sushi roll of the day, the fried crab-stuffed avocado, soba noodles, pad Thai, the crab rangoons and finally, the waffle cake served with homemade ice cream, which is a new item. The guacamole was fresh as could be, the soba noodles and seaweed salad were up to par, the crab rangoons were something good and new, but the fried crab-stuffed avocado was phenomenal and by far, my favorite item of the evening. The Bardo chef halves an avocado, stuffs it with crab and then fries it into a ball. It is served with a balsamic garnish and is the perfect mixture of flavors. When it came out, it reminded me of those anti-submarine mine field explosives, round with pokers sticking out of it. Odd looking, but great tasting. The funnel cake was fun. We chose the brownie sundae ice cream (over the strawberry sundae) and it was so superb. I don't like 'fairs', but I do like funnel cake, so I was able to enjoy the dessert without having to go on rides that make me sick and are run by people that look like they should be behind bars.
As with tapas, before you know it, you are at $100 for two people, so while the individual item prices are low, you keep ordering because by the time each of you takes two bites, the dish is gone and you are still hungry. Bardo was very busy when we arrived around to 8pm on Saturday, so we opted for the food bar seats over a 45 minute wait. Sitting at the food bar is great because you can watch the chef team work their magic. Kelly noted that this was a superbly run kitchen and those guys were definitely hopping. Bardo is great if you want something small or if you want a great sampling of Asian-inspired tapas. The decor is Asian-inspired modern and the service is typically good. Our waitress on Saturday was exceptionally attentive.
On March 15, Bardo is having a 'bizarre food night' which will include tarantulas, rocky mountain oysters (yes the real thing, for those of you that know what they are) and five or six other unusual selections. The regular menu will also be served if one in your party is not keen on the bizarre offerings (that would be me). They are ordering the selections based on reservations, so call in advance if you would like to enjoy the bizarre food night. I believe it is a fixed price for the variety of selections, somewhere in the neighborhood of $70 per person. Bardo does not appear to have a website, but you can view their menu here (There are some new selections on the current menu in the restaurant).
Bardo is located at 430 W 21st St (@ Colonial Ave) Norfolk, VA 23517 and is open daily for dinner and late-night snacks.