Located in Verona, Ariane Kitchen & Bar (aka AKB) may be on your list of “occasion restaurants,” but it’s worth way more visits than just your birthday or anniversary. With its New York City vibe and seasonal menu, it’s a hip restaurant that brings the wow factor for all occasions – even those ‘I just want a great drink and delicious appetizer on a Wednesday’ scenarios.
Ariane Kitchen and Bar Excels at Seasonal, Savory, Delicious Comfort Food
Before delving into Ariane Kitchen & Bar, it’s important to recognize who’s in the kitchen. If you’re a fan of Top Chef, then you might already know of Chef Ariane Duarte, a New Jersey native who not only won the premiere season of “Cook Your Ass Off” and then proceeded to “Beat Bobby Flay” in the kitchen.
Her cooking chops run deep, from working as a sous chef at Highlawn Pavilion in West Orange to Dallas’ prestigious Star Canyon, and catering with her own company CulinAriane. Then she decided to have a place of her own and in 2014, Ariane and her husband, Michael Duarte, opened the doors to Ariane Kitchen & Bar in Verona, Ariane’s hometown.
With all the high-profile press, you’d tend to think Chef Ariane would just be orchestrating the operation from above, but you’d be very, very wrong. Any day of the week, you’ll find her in the kitchen working the line. From formulating the seasonal menus to running the kitchen, and beyond, Chef Ariane, with the help of her husband, has turned their vision into a success.
“We change our menu anywhere from four to five times per year and love to use local produce, fish, and meat,” said Chef Ariane. “In addition to our changing menu, we always have a few favorites that remain.”
Speaking of favorites, one of Chef Ariane’s infamous dishes includes her scallop dish, a burger featuring a flavorful blend, and her tuna flower that is almost too pretty to eat. Finally, there’s her ridiculously delicious oyster dish, which she created in 2000. It all starts with southern oysters, a bit meatier and less briny, that are fried, and then served with a fresh horseradish cream. It tastes just as good, if not better, then that sounds – no wonder it has a following. As for dishes that may not be on the menu, like her scallop dish, just give her a few days’ notice and she’ll make it happen. No celebrity status required. Now that’s exceptional service.
“We’re really open to making our customers happy, which includes being able to customize really any dish on the menu and bringing back those dishes that people love,” said Chef Ariane. “I’m more than happy to turn a dish vegan, gluten-free, etc. We’re health conscious here.”
As for dining at Ariane Kitchen and Bar, you may think that it’s a once every few months kind of event due to its swanky interior – well, you’d be wrong yet again. Not only is the restaurant stunning inside – think white manmade granite bar tops, oversize Alice in Wonderland chairs, large communal tables, and a quiet flower room that’s perfect for private events (they can fit up to 100 guests) – they’re also home to a weekend After Glow Happy Hour from 10-11:30pm where you can end your evening on a high note as well as a weekday Happy Hour, and live music Thursdays.
“People think of us as a fine dining restaurant, but we want them to know that even though we look the part, we’re losing that title,” said Chef Ariane who will be celebrating the restaurant’s third year in November. “I’m so proud to be a third generation Verona resident. I know that if my grandparents were alive to see our restaurant sign, they would be so proud.”
Well, Chef Ariane, your fans may not be related to you, but when they see your restaurant sign you can be sure that they get excited… and very hungry.