Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ardesia: I don't really know.

Last Friday night, AV and I decided to check out Ardesia, the brand-new wine bar in my neighborhood. The place was absolutely hopping when we got there at 8:30 or 9 or so; it was so busy that we had to squeeze behind the door to wait while a table opened up. But finally we settled into a corner in the lounge area, which was rimmed with plush, low-backed sofas. Our table was a tiny, moveable TV-dinner-style table that we could swing over our laps. We tried to get comfortable as the enormous and loud group next to us kept growing, encroaching into our already awkward space corner.

The bar itself is really pretty-- chic and modern with blackboards lining one wall and a see-through rack of wine bottles stretching from floor to double-height ceiling behind the bar. But it was loud and crowded. Much more bar-bar than wine-bar-- i.e., if you're looking for a dark, sexy, and romantic nook, Ardesia is not your place.

Our incredibly friendly but aw-shucks awkward waiter finally brought us menus. I wasn't drinking, but there did seem to be a number of nice-looking wines by the glass. AV ordered a beer, and we contemplated our food choices. I asked whether any of the cheeses were brie-like; when I was told honestly no, we decided to share an order of the manchego ($6), which AV supplemented with their house-made cocktail sausages ($5). What arrived shortly thereafter was as follows:

Dollhouse food?

Oh, and bread

Um, wow. In case you're counting, that's $1.66 per sausage, and approximately $1 per small bite of cheese. Was the food decent? Sure. Was it a total rip-off? Absolutely. Contrast this $6 cheese "plate" (that tiny pile of debris is about a tablespoonful of crushed hazelnuts in honey) with what you get for around $8 at Riposo 46, our usual neighborhood wine bar:

Just for the record, that's half a loaf of bread, two garlic crostini, stewed dried fruit, walnuts, a large bunch of grapes, and two huge, thick hunks of manchego

No contest. But I feel bad writing off Ardesia entirely; inexplicably, I actually really wanted to like the place. For one, everyone was so friendly, especially our waiter, who at one point actually used the phrase "Hidey-ho." Plus, it was the first week of the bar's opening... and I do want to encourage more restaurants and nightlife hot spots to explore the currently uncharted territory west of Ninth Avenue in Hell's Kitchen. But if Ardesia is going to survive, it has to either knock down its prices significantly or increase the value (i.e., food, beer) it provides for the money. Till then, you can find us a few blocks away at Riposo 46.

510 W. 52nd Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues

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