Our overwhelming satisfaction with The Black Ant is well documented, so when we learned the same team opened a follow-up restaurant in the West Village, we were intrigued. Gardënia isn't a copy of Black Ant, but it shares many similar qualities.
Gardënia is a New York take on what we assume eating in Costa Rica must be like, minus the bathing suit and the water. You're surrounded by vegetation, drinking colorful cocktails with berries sticking out of them, and eating lots and lots of fish.
The food is a good ol' mutt, a mashup of Latin flavors, Mexican influence, and Mediterranean style. Like The Black Ant, the creativity of each plate is impressive. They're all highly stylized and super funky looking, but also pretty damn delicious too. The aforementioned octopus is the standout, and the Denver Cut Steak is one of the better non-steakhouse steaks we've had in a minute. Not all the food is as memorable, but in general, it gets the job done and then some.
Gardënia's location makes it somewhat of a hidden gem, and a cool West Village restaurant you can actually get into last minute when everything else is booked. It's not huge, but there's enough room to accommodate a nice sized group, and this should 100% be on the radar for your next Girls' Night Out. It's also a great option for Day Drinking during their daily 4-7pm happy hour, with wallet-friendly cocktail prices and a nice menu of bar snacks available. We may not be as taken with Gardënia as we are with The Black Ant, but this team is on a roll, and we like what they've got cooking.
PSA: Gardënia is best experienced while drinking one of their fruity, spicy, agave filled cocktails. Hopefully you're not pregnant, or on a cleanse. They make a mean cucumber margarita.
A small bowl of raw yellowtail drizzled with oil and decorated with vegetables. An excellent way to kick off your meal.
I can't believe I'm actually writing this, but, THESE CARROTS (with maple glaze and walnuts) WERE INSANE. We needed a refill. It's all about that moist glaze.
The octopus is one of two must order dishes at Gardënia. It's charred perfectly, and served in that ideal soft, tender state octopus is best at. It's also served in convenient little chunks, along with a bunch of assorted dipping sauces. This is a good time.
Speaking of octopus, on the lunch menu, they serve it on a roll, with a big slab of bacon. Interesting, unique, and definitely something we'd order again, although we'd way rather eat their regular grilled octopus instead. Either way, we appreciate the creativity and radical use of the squid.
A loaded flatbread with oxtail, manchego, tomatoes, and arugula. If you're hungry, this should be on the table.
Nope,there's no weed in this steak, just the crazy juicy, ridiculously tender center cut of a cow. That's the Denver Cut, and the execution of this dish is pretty much flawless. It's pretty too, as almost all the dishes at Gardënia (and The Black Ant) are. Infatuation-approved steak art right here, order it.
This came highly recommended by our server, and although it sounded amazing on paper - chorizo, black kale, rock shrimp, saffron broth, chipotle aioli - it didn't come together as deliciously as we had hoped. There was no sticky factor to the noodles, so it was kind of like a big bowl of stuff swimming in a loose, kinda wet noodle broth. Skip.