We ate at the fabulous Aldea, a Michelin star restaurant in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood, and for those of you who are going to be in New York City, this is our new gourmet discovery. Aldea means “village” or “hamlet” in Spanish and is a blend of Portuguese and Spanish small plates. Chef Mendes’s menu is eclectic, highly original, and mixes a smattering of popular Asian ingredients with his Iberian-influenced dishes.
The Aldea restaurant menu includes a variety of shellfish, various preparations of salt-cod, or bacalao, rice dishes and Iberian-cured hams and suckling pig. One of the knockout appetizers is a sea urchin toast with cauliflower puree and shiso leaves. It seems like a strange combination to anyone who is used to uni and shiso as sushi items only. But the combination of the salty creaminess of the sea urchin with the starchy vegetable cream of the cauliflower is sublime, with a splash of lime and sprinkle of mustard seed. Definitely one of our favorites! We followed it with deliciously fresh Irish point oysters mignonette. The next small plate, a citrus and radish salad, looked quite beautiful with multicolored radishes, marcona almonds, goat cheese, and trout caviar. But the textures were missing something—maybe a bit of frisée and more zest, perhaps a bit of kumquat? Next we shared a plate of charred sardines with hazelnut, benne seed, orange zest before the main entrée of Suckling pig and Manila clams, with pea sprouts, preserved lemons, burnt bread (crisped up with butter and garlic)– savory and cooked to perfection. Because we could not think of ending with a rich dessert, however tempting, we ordered the artisanal cheese plate (rather expensive at $19 for a small plate): Valdeon (Cow and Goat, Asturias, Spain), Zimbro (raw sheep, Portugal), served with quince marmalade &cranberry-walnut toast. The cranberry-walnut toast was to delicious we asked for some more take back to our hotel. Dark chocolate truffles were complimentary! The bottle of 2012 Barranco Oscuro Brut from Andalucia, Spain was dry and wonderful, and reasonably priced.
Aldea is a keeper—beautifully prepared food that would be difficult to find anywhere else. The surroundings and décor are as aesthetically pleasing as the food is. The double-height ceiling invites you in, with a freestanding bar framed in concrete and illuminated wood paneling. We sat at the chef’s bar so we could observe the culinary theater in the small kitchen and watch the preparation of the secret ingredients of each dish by a staff of at least ten. We will be back to this restaurant and hope that many of you will also have a chance to experience this delightful foodie’s paradise.