Ardiente – A Latin-Asian culinary experience arrives to Old City serving unique takes on both Latin American and Asian dishes
In Spanish, the word ardiente literally means burning, but can also be used to mean passionate or ardent. An example: Ese chico es un amante ardiente. That guy is a passionate lover. The word represents vibrancy and dynamism – two qualities entrepreneur Michael Sciore is trying to replicate at his new restaurant Ardiente on Second Street in Old City.
“I want people to have an experience,” explains Sciore. “From the moment they walk in to the moment they leave I want everything to be flawless.”
It’s clear Sciore and his team, many of whom have come from his previous restaurant Le Bec Fin, have put a lot of effort into creating a stimulating dining environment. From the outside Ardiente looks simple, plain even. There’s only the name written in gold letters set against solid black paneling with rectangular windows painted over in white. Upon entering, however, the visitor is greeted with a spectacular vista. One wall is made entirely of cork. A brightly lit ‘fishtank’ designed to house performance artists hangs above the central bar. Chairs covered in milky white Ostrich skin and chandeliers made of antlers imported from Mexico are scattered throughout the room.
“We spent about 60 months planning it all,” says Sciore. “We wanted to add that cool factor.”
For the menu, they’ve chosen to combine Asian and Latin cuisines, but executive chef Nihad Hajdarhodzic emphasizes that it’s not fusion.
“It’s a Chino-Latino blend. We make foods from Latin America with ingredients from Asia and vice versa,” explains Hajdarhodzic. “It’s not fusion.”
The menu consists of six different categories – Starters, Salads, Ceviche and Tiradito, Clay Pot Rice and Noodles, Big Shares and Healthy Stuff. The plates are designed to be filling, but light. Customers are encouraged to order at least one dish from each section to then share with the entire table.
“We want customers to be able to sample the dishes,” says Hajdarhodzic. “They start with a warm dish then have a cold one then another warm one and so on.”
Examples of the Latino-Asian combination include the Scallop Ceviche - a mix of scallops with miso leche de tigre (a Japanese seasoning), rice crisps and cilantro – and the Skirt Steak Bibimbap – a classic Korean rice dish served in a clay pot, but seasoned and cooked with adobo salt traditionally from Puerto Rico and Cuba. A great starter is the soft, warm Fried Shishito Peppers from Japan also known as padrón peppers in Spain (one in every 38 is spicy).
For those looking for something sweet, executive pastry chef Robert Bennett, who worked for over 14 years at Le Bec Fin, has whipped up a handful of delectable concoctions. The signature dessert, named Ardiente of course, combines rich red velvet cake with vanilla ice cream covered in crème brûlée. The succulent Frozen Grand Mariner Soufflé garnished with mango and the Limoncello cake with almond joconde, lemon curd and white chocolate mousse are also excellent.
To drink, I’d recommend the house Mojito or Caipirinha, but the Szechuan Sangria made from red wine, Grand Mariner, brandy, macerated fruit and Chinese Five spice Szechuan Peppercorn Syrup is a delightfully spicy take on the Spanish classic. Some might even describe it as ardiente.
For more information about Ardiente or to make a reservation go to their website at ardientephilly.com. Their hours are 5pm – close every day of the week. They are located at 33 South 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106 in Old City near the 2nd Street stop on the MFL. Dishes are $12-$49.