Jardenea — a playful take on the word for garden in French mixed with (and interestingly pronounced like) the gardenia flower albeit with a soft ‘j’ — is found in the Melrose Hotel. Well, it might take a bit of a hunt to actually find it… While it sits in a popular Georgetown-adjacent hotel, there is no signage (inside or out) and you’ll be hard pressed to locate a host stand. But hotel staff are delightfully anxious to offer direction, and once you find Jardenea, you’ll understand the true meaning of hidden gem.
The restaurant space itself is somber, other than the tables in the lobby extension. Décor is sophisticated, but art is sparse and functional, acting as a space divider in lieu of hanging on a wall. This probably makes it the perfect place for a romantic meal… or maybe for a celebrity to have a dish and not get dished on.
But as much as the atmosphere blends together, some things at Jardenea really stand out. The service is more than attentive, with servers that appear when you want them to — and stay out of the way when you don’t — and are dedicated to offering honest food and drink suggestions. And…
The food wowed.
Executive Chef Nelson Erazo (along with sous chef Patrick Knott’s) seasonally-driven menu is centered around beef and seafood and paired with thoughtful complements from the Melrose Hotel lobby bar. The upcoming winter offerings are a hearty embrace of comfort and tradition, with some unexpected flavors to add amusement.
At the time of this writing, Chef Knott recommended the Creekstone Farm Ribeye as his current favorite dish, and it definitely did not disappoint. The common Maryland Crab Cake might not sound exciting, but at Jardenea, it’s served remarkably, with corn, roasted red peppers, bacon, and better-than-Grandma’s cider-braised collard greens. (We’ll take a whole bowl of those alone, please.) Dessert offerings are predictable, but delicious. Who can resist a Warm Dark Chocolate Lava Cake on a crisp December evening in the midst of the holiday season? Not I.
In short, while the space — and (lack of) signage — are a little peculiar, Jardenea is a spot worth seeking out. Georgetown’s own secret gourmet garden!