Aldea – NYC
The Iberian Peninsula continues to colonize the NYC dining scene. Recently, I’ve noticed a spate of Spanish/Portuguese restaurants popping up on Eater and other food columns. The three currently on my radar are Aldea, Txikito and La Fonda del Sol. Add these to Boqueria, Casa Mono, Mercat and a host of others that have cropped up in the recent years. What a difference from the 90’s. As far as I recall, back then, if I was in the mood for Spanish, my choices were limited to either Solera or Marichu.
Since getting back from Piedmont, we’ve laid low on dining out to give our wallets and waistlines a rest, but I think we’re safely back in the swing of things. So, on the evening before a long holiday weekend and despite so much rain pelting pavement, we march over to Aldea in the Flatiron district.
The place is comfortably filled but not packed. We are seated at the ‘chef’s table’ (euphemism for a counter with six bar stools next to the open kitchen). From our perch, we can watch the comings and goings of the six chefs working in random harmony.
We order everything to share and our selections weigh more heavily towards the petiscos (small bites) and the appetizers rather than the entrees.
SEA URCHIN TOAST, cauliflower cream, sea lettuce, lime. A good portion of sea urchin tops a thin piece of toast. It’s sweet and fresh tasting on the first bite.
PICKLED RAMP BULBS AND TAH SOI, crispy pig ears, apple, cumin yogurt. It’s quite easy to make a pig’s ear out of pig’s ear. I’ve eaten some that are as chewy as an old shoe, but this is nice and crispy. As an aside, pickled ramps seem to be quite in vogue this year. I’ve noticed it on quite a few menus.
TOMATO-CHERRY GAZPACHO, heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella “ravioli”, oyster. A new addition to the menu recommended by our waitress. It’s much prettier when it’s presented on the table, sans liquid, with colorful petals of edible flowers strewn along cherry tomatoes and three balls of mozzarella. Dousing it with the creamy soup somewhat ruins the look but I suppose that is what gazpacho is after all 🙂 It’s delicious, with that undercurrent of bell pepper in the tomato puree. The mozzarella ravioli are a novelty and the thin layer of “skin” reminds me a little of hard-boiled egg whites. One bite and out oozes cool liquid mozzarella.
BABY CUTTLEFISH, coconut-curry soup, herb puree, squid ink. This one comes with a hint of lemon grass in the foam, but I’m guessing the squid ink’s for decorative purposes only because I don’t taste it.
MIGLIORELLI FARMS’ PEAS AND TENNESSEE BACON, soft-poached egg, green garlic, truffle. It’s quite common nowadays to see eggs + some form of pork + foam of varying density on a dinner menu so this no longer wows me; nonetheless, it’s a decent interpretation with a nod to the earthy side.
ARROZ DE PATO duck confit, chorizo, olive, duck cracklings, farro risotto, cucumber, orange. Our sole entree for the night. Not bad, but not as enjoyable as the small plates that preceded it. A little underseasoned for me.
Overall, a really pleasant meal. Nothing earthshaking, but then it doesn’t always have to be.