Green and white asparagus with sunny-side up hen egg and black truffle $13
An impeccable early summer dish, taking advantage of fresh, seasonal white and green asparagus. While I normally prefer green asparagus (I find it more flavorful), the artful pairing of the two varietals brought forth a harmonious blend of tasty, slightly woody notes. On top of this, a fried hen egg with a delicious, runny yolk and, underneath, a small slice of toast that added a nice crunch. Served with small portions of intense, earthy black truffle sauce. Finally, garnished with a sprinkling of salt. Overall, elegantly created and artfully plated.
New England hake with cranberry bean-olive stew, “caldeirada” broth and seared Narragansett squid $27
An inventive combination of flavors and ingredients, drawing from the Portuguese culinary vocabulary. This large piece of hake (which is a fish somewhat similar to cod) was lightly cooked with a crunchy skin. The flakey meat, both sweet and tender, was plated next to a generous helping of thinly sliced squid from Narragansett, Rhode Island. Served with a light caldeirada broth, which is derived from a Portuguese stew of the same name. A fine fusion of olive oil, tomato, garlic, seafood and, delicate anise hints of Pernod. The hearty stew, a combination of chestnut-y white and green garbanzos with creamy cranberry beans (known to Italians as borlotti beans), added depth and texture to the dish.
Caramelized brioche with sautéed pineapple, lime curd and coconut sorbet $10
A thick slice of brioche bread, delicately battered and then lightly fried. Fluffy on the inside, yet slightly crisp on the outside. Covered with sweet chunks of sautéed pineapple, drizzled with tart lime curd and plated with a small quenelle of velvety coconut sorbet. This was a carefully considered synthesis of summery, tropical flavors with the bready texture of tasty brioche. Delicious.
It’s clear that George Mendes is a particularly talented and accomplished chef. His homage to Portuguese food, Aldea (the name is loosely based on the word “village” in Portuguese), offers an impressive assortment of elegant, flavorful and unique dishes. Everything here is of an extremely high quality, from the home made bread to the delectable petits fours and surprising and satisfying chocolate truffles (accented with subtle notes of raspberry). Plus, with its friendly, knowledgeable staff and reassuringly reasonable prices, Aldea really is a standout in the crowded New York dining landscape.
For an extra special experience, head to the back of the restaurant and try to grab a seat at the chef’s counter, which looks onto the buzzy kitchen.
31 W. 17th St.