Chef George Mendes cut his teeth with a who's who of many of the finest chefs around (Alain Ducasse, Alain Passard, David Bouley, Kurt Gutenbrunner, Martín Berasategui, Roger Vergé), absorbing their rigor and creativity.  At Aldea, he has channeled these traits into creating revelatory Iberian-influenced Portuguese cuisine.  Aldea means village or countryside, and while the cuisine has something of that rusticity and simplicity, there is much more going on than first meets the eye. 

There is a superb collection of country hams and terrines that are popular ways to begin the meal.  Nearly all of the petiscos (snacks) are homeruns.  The signature dishes, such as salt cod croquettes and Arroz de Pato, a kind of complex paella dish composed of duck confit, chorizo, black olives and oranges, are bold-flavored vessels of ecstasy.  But the best dish of all is a soft-poached hen egg served with Benton's bacon and black truffles, which is earthy, rich and intensely addictive. 

The tall and narrow dining room is outfitted with sleek contemporary décor in a muted palette of blue and white that conjures up the seaside (it is meant to evoke the countryside of the Iberian coast).  A corridor of blond wood and striped glass lead to a chef's counter and open kitchen – one of the best places in the city to watch the chefs at work while dining.


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31 W. 17th St.
New York (nr. Fifth Ave.)
Mon, 11:30am-2pm, 5:30pm-10pm, Tue-Thu, 11:30am-2pm, 5:30pm-11pm, Fri, 11:30am-2pm and 5:30pm-midnight, Sat, 5:30pm-midnight
    George Mendes, Chef
    Shelly Acuna, Pastry Chef