After the show last week, Mary Ann had an odd suggestion. Dinner at Pardo’s, a place she has been cool to for months. This was one of her very favorite places on the north shore for a number of years, since its beginnings in the strip mall on Hwy 21 at Brewster Road. From the day it opened, this place was much too good for a strip mall. It was glamorous, had a clientele of beautiful people, many of whom had driven from the south shore, and sophisticated and delicious food. An instant hit with discriminating diners.
And why not? Owner Osman Rodas is not only a good-looking, sophisticated owner, he is a savvy businessman with a stellar career at the white-tablecloth A-listers. And good instincts. Not to mention ambitious, so it was no surprise that he soon grew his empire to two more concepts: Tchoupstix, which we miss terribly for its innovative Asian food. And Forks and Corks, a lovely space in the booming residential bubble of Terra Bella. Tchoupstix was replaced with Pepe's. a Mexican concept in downtown Covington.
Osman Rodas has surfed rather than ridden an undulating wave of good and bad fortune, losing a truly great talent in Marvin Tweedy. His on-again-off-again chef passed away recently, ending tremendous promise. And landlord issues, which required a relocation, and subsequent questionable decision which surprised us. We now stand corrected, humbled, and thrilled with the change of a literally falling-down old Christian bookstore into what MA considers the most beautiful dining space in the entire metro area.
But the change of location brought to Pardo’s something I have often cited, which my wife never really believed: new restaurants need time to come into their own, even if they keep everything the same but only move. MA was heartbroken after her first few visits that she didn’t like the food at her beloved Pardo’s anymore. Which is why it was a surprise to me that she offered dinner there.
The parking lot has been paved, but there is still the valet situation, utterly unique to the north shore. It reminds one of a California restaurant, which makes sense. Everything else about the place does too, including the outdoor hearth and patio.
Osman was there when we went, and it was good to catch up. He has just hired Robert Vasquez as corporate chef to rework all menus, including Pepe’s. Robert Vasquez has been around a bit, and is most known for his popular Opal Basil. Expect the food in the Osman Rodas empire to take a healthier turn. That is a big focus of the Vasquez brand.
The place was jumping that night with some large parties, including one in the gorgeous wine room. Here is where really high-end events occur. Osman is an oenophile as well. These big parties made the kitchen slow, which is the only thing that was wrong that night. The food was perfection. The service is extraordinary here, and that was definitely on. And Osman was working the dining room, adding his glam.
We tried the soup special of the evening, which was a hearty pork and vegetable kind of stew. Really great and very filling. Served over rice. I was kept busy waiting with some wines Osman brought over to try, like a rose even MA liked, and a great Red that was perfect with my Osso Bucco. This was made with veal, and the demi-glace was so intense it was almost thrilling. This was served over polenta and with a few carrots that were actually too crunchy to eat. And I especially wanted to eat the purple one.
MA had a basic steak and some fries. The steak was cooked exactly as she asked, and it was tender, which is unusual these days. She loved it. Not so much the fries, which we usually devour here. These were a little too dark and just not up to the usual standards here. Always fresh-cut though. This came with a well-made Hollandaise. We should have swapped these for the crispy Brussels sprouts or the mac’n’cheese, which the girls often get as an entree here, it is so good. At least that’s what they tell me. Mac’n’Cheese in a place like this is hard for me to take.
I ended with a bread pudding that they call Morning Glory. Sort of like a bran muffin. Robert Vasquez’s idea, no doubt. It was delicious, as his healthy food is. Healthy food shouldn’t be that good, I always think when I eat his food.
Anyway, we left delighted. Pardo’s is back. Better than ever, in this fabulous new spot.
5108 Hwy 22 Mandeville
Mon-Th Lunch 11-2 Dinner 5-9
Friday Lunch 11-2 Dinner till 10