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Ardor. Hip and hidden Restaurant in Los Angeles.

08/02/2024 by .
Ardor. Hip and hidden Restaurant in Los Angeles

Anthea Gerrie discovers hip but hidden Ardor, West Hollywood’s best-kept restaurant secret.

A hip bar hidden in a speakeasy is one thing, a fine dining restaurant with a secret entrance quite another.   We might never have been able to keep our reservation at Ardor, one of LA’s best and newest offerings, had we not known for sure that its home was the West Hollywood Edition.

It took a good 10 minutes to find our way into the beautiful dining room after navigating a hotel lobby devoid of signage and failing to understand where the receptionist was pointing us as she waved a finger in the direction of the staircase.  It was worth the confusion to discover, behind the stairs at street level, an original menu delivered with elegant service in one of the most conducive settings the city has to offer.

Ardor. Hip and hidden Restaurant in Los Angeles

Ardor is described by chef John Fraser, who won a Michelin star for his vegetarian restaurant NIX in Greenwich Village, as his love letter to California.  While the native Angeleno has built his name on vegetable-forward cuisine, there is also plenty of meat and seafood on offer at Ardor, with plants represented most obviously in a wealth of tropical greenery which brings the outside well and truly in.  The atmosphere is buzzy without sacrificing privacy; Old Hollywood is represented in huge, curved ivory booths which are the place for an intimate dinner, with larger groups seated at tables well out of earshot.

Signature dishes from hyper-local sources like the excellent Santa Monica Farmers’ Market include carrots cooked in a tandoor and served with hummus, pine nuts, aubergine croutons and a paprika vinaigrette, and a tower of superlative tempura-battered onion rings sprinkled with umami powder($18).  Beefsteak tomatoes grilled with olive oil, salt and rosemary provide the unusual topping for an expensive serving of the signature Milk Bread ($16).

Ardor. Hip and hidden Restaurant in Los Angeles

Ardor. Hip and hidden Restaurant in Los Angeles

Before we got as far as the onion rings, we went for distinctly fishy – and delicious – starters.  Half a dozen Pacific oysters ($26) were served with a delicate kiwi mignonette, while yellowfin tuna tartare ($26) came with quail eggs, olives and an anchovy-mustard dressing.  There were numerous meaty mains on offer, including a Wagyu strip steak at an eye-watering $155, but it would be hard to better a wonderfully tender filet mignon ($68) at less than half the price complete with confit potato, wilted herbs and in intriguing crumble of sorrel.

The only dish which disappointed was a tranche of slightly overcooked olive oil-poached halibut, swiftly removed and replaced at the maitre d’s suggestion with Ardor’s popular grilled branzino ($48), a wonderful whole fish like a meaty sea bass, dressed in caper-dill vinaigrette and served topped with tender leaves.

Ardor. Hip and hidden Restaurant in Los Angeles

Definitely worth pre-ordering is Fraser’s signature dessert for Ardor – a gooseberry phyllo pizza with vanilla creme patissiere and 25-year-aged Balsamic.  Pricey for a dessert, perhaps, at $48, but enough to serve two more than generously and take the rest home.   The wine list is full of interesting bottles from all over the world, with many available by the glass.  We enjoyed a rarely seen in the US Malvasia from Croatia ($20), a fine French Chablis, the classic accompaniment to oysters ($23) and a delightful pinot noir from California’s Sonoma Coast – Failla, the most expensive glass despite being homegrown ($26).

Ardor invites lingering, so enveloping is the dimly-lit room in the dinner hour and welcoming but unobtrusive service from a well-trained waiting staff.   The only annoyance was the hassle trying to find the entrance, and having to go outside to find our Uber driver, who like us was totally puzzled to find no signage for the restaurant.   Note to Ian Schrager, king of New York clubbing who created the Edition brand – signage may interfere with clean, minimal design(and Ardor lives inside a building designed by the king of minimalism, architect John Pawson), but sometimes signposts are essential to promote your best offerings!

restaurant interior images (C) Carley Rudd.

Tell Me More About Visiting Ardor

Ardor Restaurant, West Hollywood EDITION Hotel, 9040 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, California 90069.

T: +1 310 953 9899


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