Despite its ill-timed initial debut just before the pandemic, Ardor at the West Hollywood EDITION has quietly become one of the most exceptional newer fine-dining experiences in all of L.A. Run by Michelin restaurant alum and NYC restaurateur John Fraser, the self-described “vegetable-forward” lobby restaurant offers astonishingly good food and an air of sweeping romance that’ll make you forget all about the fact you’ll pay at least $18 for valet parking, if not more. Insulated from the chaos of Sunset Strip traffic, Ardor’s separate entrance seamlessly segues to the restaurant’s stunning backlit bar, where you might need to sit a spell while waiting for a table to open up.
After check-in, conventionally attractive hosts in slinky white dresses and kitten-heeled boots will usher you to your table, while Ardor’s servers clad in similar all-white attire move about the modern, greenery-lined dining room. Thanks to careful lighting, the overall effect is nothing if downright cinematic. You’ll find yourself willing to forgive a few lags in service, since the essentially flawless cuisine, well-made drinks and extremely West Hollywood aura of the place generally make up for these occasional shortcomings in attentiveness and timing. Cocktails remain delightful and impressive whether made with or without alcohol, including the boozeless Canary, made with Seedlip, yuzu and matcha cordial.
The food, however, upstages all else at Ardor—even the fact you might spot a celebrity or two at an adjoining table. From appetizers to dessert, Fraser’s hyperlocal, vegetarian-friendly cuisine is sharpened to a precise point of culinary perfection. While you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, you probably shouldn’t forgo the pillowy milk bread topped with caramelized beefsteak tomatoes or the tiny tower of onion rings. Covered in umami powder, they might finally convince a few people to finally abandon their secret, long abiding love for Bloomin’ Onions. Tender “tandoor” carrots come on a bed of hummus and eggplant, each almost-candy-like root vegetable perfectly seasoned with dill and mint. Every vegetable-centric dish serves as a gentle reminder that increasingly, for skillful forward-looking chefs, there’s plenty of pleasure to be found in more sustainable ingredients.
However, diners who still scoff at plant-based fare will find that meat and seafood, which take up far less real estate on the menu than usual, receive equally deft treatment at Ardor. The skirt steak arrives with garlic confit and an exquisite red salt, the kind of simple accompaniments red meat lovers extol the virtues of, while the silver skin of the steamed bass glimmers on the plate. You can taste the quality of the sourcing in each flaky forkful.
Seasonal confections like Ardor’s well-executed rendition of a hazelnut bar or a rather unconventional vanilla funfetti soufflé topped with cherry ice cream are just as delicious, albeit presented with less flourish. For a larger group of diners, however, the eye-poppingly expensive gooseberry tart is worth pre-ordering off the main menu well before dessert. Prepared tableside, the thin crust vanilla custard pastry is drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar—the perfect combination of sweet and sour. It’s a movie style ending to a movie star kind of night, even if there’s still the $300-plus bill for two to contend with.
The vibe: With a polished staff in white and neutrals, a lush dining room and cinematic lighting, Ardor espouses the kind of modern glamour many restaurants reach for, but never achieve.
The food: Vegetarian-friendly, plant-focused fine-dining cuisine that would please even the pickiest omnivores. Must-orders include the milk bread, the onion rings and the tandoor carrots.
The drink: Top-notch color-coded cocktails that incorporate California produce, with a few worthwhile non-alcoholic options, as well as a small, interesting and expensive list of wines and beers by the glass.
Time Out tip: Book Ardor for your next made-to-impress client meal, anniversary, birthday or other splurge-worthy special occasion, and don’t even try to find nearby street parking. (Reservations only open 14 days in advance.)