Spring is right around the corner. As the snow melts and flowers begin to bloom, there is no better way to enjoy the rebirth of nature than on your plate. Located in Aurora, Hardware creates a unique dining experience with farm to table food and locally grown produce.
From the garden to your plate
From the moment you walk into the restaurant, you will notice Hardware’s successful execution of creating an earthy and rustic ambiance. An in-house greenhouse with dozens of trays of vibrant microgreens immediately welcomes you. Yet the greenhouse is only part of the farmhouse vibe that the restaurant invokes.
Every component of the restaurant comes directly from the earth — and the decor is no different. Throughout the restaurant, there is an abundance of wood detailing — from the floors to the tables to the menu to the wall art. Considering that Hardware prides itself on sustainability, it is no surprise that reclaimed materials are used for their design elements.
The charm and warmth of Hardware’s atmosphere carry on directly to the food.
Fresh and delicious food
On a flavorful and succulent journey, the first stop is the Burrata, where its preparation changes each day. We were lucky enough to experience the burrata with strawberries, caramelized onions, radish microgreens, and a glaze of balsamic vinaigrette, of course with a side of lightly toasted bread. This dish is beautifully plated with the purposeful placement of the bread and star-like shape of the balsamic vinaigrette.
Ingredients within the Burrata host a kaleidoscope of unique flavors and textures. The creamy and cloud-like texture of the burrata perfectly complements the satisfying crunch of the microgreens and caramelized onions. Flavors of sweetness from the strawberries and a slightly bitter taste from the microgreens create a delightful symphony in your mouth.
The next appetizer, and arguably the most flavorful one, is the Brisket Tacos, which use mushrooms instead of brisket as a vegetarian substitute. Arriving on a stylish wooden board, the tacos contain pickled onions, avocado and pineapple pico de gallo, and chipotle aioli. With this dish, the fresh herbs and produce from Hardware’s garden truly shine. It is difficult to find ingredients that taste so fresh, juicy, and robust.
Tanginess from the freshly squeezed lime and sweetness from the vegetables generate an exciting dissonance. Many might think that healthy food means a loss of flavor — not with Hardware.
To finish off the appetizers, the Smoked Gouda Tart — with smoked gouda, caramelized onion tart, dried figs, pickled onions, fig jam, and balsamic vinaigrette — warmly melts in your mouth. The caramelized onions make an appearance in the appetizers once again, but this time, it flawlessly adds to the sweetness of the fig jam, which pairs with the tartness of the pickled onions. The tart is hiding under a bed of fresh salad, so uncovering it is an exciting surprise.
Moving on to the main course, the Vegan Risotto fails to live up to the spirited flavors of the appetizers. With jasmine rice, grilled onion, pea pesto, coconut milk, and roasted garlic oil, the pea flavor overpowers the rest of the ingredients. Bringing out the distinct flavors of the jasmine rice or the coconut milk could strike a better balance between the ingredients.
However, the soothing and smooth texture of the risotto provides a wonderful contrast to the previous dishes. This unique take on a traditional Italian dish has the potential to be the star of the menu. Once again, the vibrant microgreens are garnished to add a punch of crunch and color.
The final main course dish, the Roasted Beets, hosts a harmony of marinated roasted beets, roasted cauliflower, pickled green beans, watermelon, pumpkin seeds, honey ricotta, and cilantro chutney. In each bite, the pickled green beans invoke a surprise of sourness to liven the dish. The roasted beets complement the pickled green beans by bringing a sweet flavor. Adding watermelon to the dish is a pleasant surprise, as its juiciness makes the already fresh salad feel even more flavorful.
As with the other dishes, Hardware mixes a variety of textures to create a rare dish that can’t be found anywhere else. There is crunch, smoothness, crispness — all in one dish.
To end this delicious journey at Hardware, Ho Ho’s dessert lives up to the expectations of a decadent chocolate dessert. Filled with créme anglaise and whiskey creme, this chocolate-covered rolled cake may be small, but it is packed with taste. When the hard outer shell is broken, a soft chocolate cake with a smooth cream filling immediately takes over. For anyone who loves chocolate cake, this different take on the beloved dessert will meet your expectations.
While you might be drawn to Hardware for its sustainable practices and fresh produce, it is the robust flavors and vibrant textures that will make you stay.
Hardware is located on 2000 W Orchard Rd, North Aurora. Visit their website at http://eathardware.com/.
Annika Srivastava is a food critic for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl