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Ardor Bistro, featuring Neuvo Latino cuisine with a main focus on Peruvian flavours by Chef Ivan Tarazona. And introducing an all Latin American Cocktail List and Wine Program by James Bailey which complements the Latin flavoured dishes.
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Review: Try Ardor

By Alan A. Vernon, reviewed on June 06, 2013

Okay, except for the gifts of quinoa, ceviche and purple potatoes to the world, Peruvian cuisine has never been particularly voguish, at least not here in old Hogtown. No one sits around with friends and says, “Hey, let’s do Peruvian tonight". And though there are a small handful of neighbourhood mainstays that specialize in South American cooking, e.g. the Boulevard Café, this extraordinary cuisine has never caught on quite like Chinese, Japanese, Thai or even Indian. And that's a darn shame because it has some of the most refined flavour combinations and sophisticated spice blends of any ethnic fare, not to mention the fact that it is prepared and served with the same rustic charm as Italian and Greek food.

So how delightful that Ardor Bistro is now among T.O.'s hippest on restaurant row, Ossington Ave. But be forewarned: peering into the window reveals little in the way of decor, if you can even use that word to describe it; it's practically bare bones. But judging this book by its cover would be catastrophically wrong because you'd be missing out on some mighty fine food and super service with a smile.

It all begins with wines from Chile and Argentina, and a "mad scientist" cocktail list with ingredients that include homemade bitters for a perfect Pisco sour. As intriguing as the drinks are, it's Ardor's authentic food offerings that make it stand out from other haunts in the 'hood, including Peruvian style crayfish bisque ($18) and a blackened hen ($21). But if you're smart, you'll let yourself first be wowed by a traditional Peruvian ceviche ($14) with beautifully crisped and salted sweet potato chips, cancha corn and aji amarillo. Dare I say it, but could it possibly be better than the Boulevard's? There, I just did. An intense wallop of lime juice adds quite the pucker to a beautiful blend of sea bass and tilapia, and fluke for added texture. ¡Olé!

A tuna and avocado puree ($15) reads as a mere dip on the menu, but rest assured it is far from anything quite so pedestrian. This gorgeous plate of sliced sashimi grade tuna atop a whipped spiced potato cake and yet another heavy hit of citrus may look like a dessert from a pricey patisserie, but it's pure savoury splendour as is a grilled octopus salad ($16). This typically tough seafood is first blanched to make it tender before being tossed in myriad spices. The end result is as tender and succulent as a plate of Portuguese rotisserie chicken. An absolute must.

As much as I hate to admit this, there are a few disappointments, aside from the fact that our server is straight and taken. A seafood stew ($26) may feature a heavy helping of the sea’s bounty that includes octopus, scallops, calamari and shrimp (that's already been completely shelled, tail included – yay), but alas, it's overcooked and sitting on a handful of black quinoa that crunches like poppy seeds due to the opposite problem: undercooking. Timing is everything with these particular ingredients. Also conspicuously absent is a broth that would have given this dish a bit more oomph and depth. Why not serve it much like a classic bouillabaisse in a deep bowl filled with broth and some corn bread to sop it all up? This unfortunate theme continues in a beef braise ($24) with coriander and navy beans. Manly portions are hugely appreciated, but the purpose of a slow braise is to ensure a meat that's both tender and juicy, I believe. Sad to say this dish is dangerously dry. But judging from what we ate early on in the meal, I'm pretty certain this is a temporary glitch not to be repeated.

I know this kitchen is capable of far better because chef Ivan Tarazona also happens to be the current owner and chef of the uptown Celestin, which from what I hear is as good as when Pascal Ribreau was at the helm. And chef did manage to turn out a flawless silky soursop mousseline ($8) with blueberries, the perfect light, airy and tangy meal ender for this time of year.

The kitchen may still have a few things to iron out, but nothing so egregious that I can't recommend it. Ardor means passion in both Spanish and English, and that's what will make this place a true success. That, and a real sincerity in everything this team does, from the back to the front of the house. With a few technique tweaks, and perhaps a bit more effort in the decor department, it will fast become a bona fide top-notch bistro. So the next time you find yourself tired of trends like tuna tacos, Neapolitan pizzas, pulled pork poutines or charcuteries, why not give this Peruvian eatery a chance to win over your palate the way it did mine. Minor misfires aside, Ardor Bistro is well worth experiencing.

Reviews are meant to describe a dining out experience at a given period in time and are the personal opinion of the writer.
All meals are paid for, including all taxes and gratuities. All reservations are made under assumed names. Menu items, prices and individuals mentioned in this review may not be up to date. Dine.TO encourages its users to share their feedback.

2 Comments for Ardor Bistro

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By Mary Brown

Mary Brown recommends Ardor Bistro

Great place to dine, wine and just to have a great time in general! The food is excellent presented by the uniquely and creative chef Ivan Tarrazona. I recommend Ardor Bistro to whoever appreciates delicious food.
Posted on
What a cool little spot! Ceviche is actually the best ever! I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who appreciates good food. It's the same owners of Celestin on Yonge/Eg.
Posted on July 23, 2013
 Please select only one reason why you would recommend this business.