Already a standout in Charlotte’s dining scene, Bardo just reopened with a new tasting menu concept and an eye-catching wall covered in graffiti.
Since it opened two years ago, Bardo has pushed Charlotte’s culinary industry to take more risks. Its entry to the scene came amid a wave of small plate menus and open kitchen layouts, both highlights at Bardo when it first opened.
Now chef/partner Michael Noll and managing partner Jayson Whiteside are reinventing their intimate Wilmore restaurant. Instead of sharable small plates, they’ve shifted to a tasting menu only concept, offering three-, five-, seven-, and 12-course options. You won’t know what you’re eating until it arrives in front of you — that’s the fun of it.
The 1,700-square-foot restaurant also got a new look. Local artist Swych covered a wall with graffiti, including a striking black and red Bardo tag and other phrases like “Eat me!!” and “Heard chef!”
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This project comes on the heels of Noll and Whiteside’s opening of VANA, their sophomore concept located a few blocks east of Bardo in South End. Within rollerblading distance, the team jokes.
Bardo doesn’t have the first tasting menu in town — Counter- just opened last month promising to “shock” diners tastebuds — but it is still a relatively new concept for Charlotte diners.
Here are 7 takeaways from my first time trying all 12 courses at Bardo.
(1) It was worth it to go all out on 12 courses.
Going big on the full 12 courses isn’t cheap — it’ll ring in at about $125, sometimes more depending on market value for ingredients. But it’s worth doing at least once for a special occasion.
You can also order three ($35), five ($60), or seven ($90) courses. Some courses are smaller than others. My course No. 2, for example, was just one oyster with persimmon, red shiso flowers, and dehydrated habanero. On the other hand, course No. 9 came with four or so slices of beef cheek.
If you have dietary restrictions, add a note when you’re making a reservation.
(2) Start with a cocktail from mixologist Amanda Britton.
One of Charlotte’s best mixologists, Amanda Britton’s drinks are consistently balanced, inventive, and fun. Menu highlights include:
- Sage Advice ($13) – This cocktail pictured below is made with George Dickel Rye whiskey, sage, maple, and lemon.
- Stay Golden ($13) – Turmeric gives this Muddy River rum-based cocktail a bright yellow color. It’s also made with ginger and coconut milk.
- Rainbow Ramos ($16) – A sweet and frothy drink, the Rainbow Ramos is made with Sutlers gin, raspberry, orange, lime, cream, egg white, and soda water.
(3) Go with the flow and enjoy the surprises.
If you’re a picky eater, this might not be your place. Every dish is a surprise, and the menu rotates.
(4) The wine pairing pours are pretty sizable.
I passed on the wine pairings because 12 pours sounded like a lot, but if you’re doing three, five, or seven courses, go for it. Wine pairings cost $5 per course. The pours are pretty sizable — a little more than half a glass of wine.
(5) Bardo’s transformation is striking.
With its new graffiti wall and hanging air plants, Bardo looks totally different. There’s a lot to look at so in between courses, take it all in.
(6) Getting a table next to the kitchen feels like you’re on an episode of Top Chef.
Expect to hear a lot of “Heard chef!” from Noll’s team. My friend and I also had a front row seat to the drama when chef Noll couldn’t find his “special spoon.”
(7) Budget at least two hours for dinner.
If you’re doing 12 courses, expect to be there a while. I was there for almost two and a half hours from about 8:30 p.m. to the restaurant’s close at 11 p.m.
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