A recent recipient of the Michelin star, Aldea offers contemporary Portuguese cuisine combining modern approaches to rustic dishes. My sister and I stopped by there for lunch on my first day in New York City. Located in the Flatiron District, the restaurant ambience was calming. Wooden panels, cool blue and white colour schemes represented the earth, air, and water elements, making us feel relaxed stepping in to the space. I felt relaxed indulging in the space. With opened kitchen viewing, we also got to observe the chefs at work. The service was exceptional. Our servers were attentive, informative, and very professional.
My sister wasted no time ordering the set lunch which at $24.07 for a 3 courses. The first course was the rustic pork and duck terrine served with wine jelly and arugula. There was the essence of the smokiness similar to bacon and ham with a thicker taste. It was descent.
The second course, skate with escabeche jus and zucchini ribbons. I had no idea what a skate was and apparently it is a type of cartilaginous fish or rays. I just learned that skates are suffering from overfishing and are listed as vulnerable. Since it was after the fact, I didn't get a chance to ask where the restaurants get their skates from. Anyways, back to the tasting. The fish was cooked really well, crispy outside and tender in the middle. We have a pet peeve of seared or pan fried fish being too dry and tasteless, but this dish was done really well. It was well seasoned, with a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth texture complemented by the tanginess of the jus.
I ordered the opened-face sea urchin sandwich with heirloom tomatoes for $17. Though the size was quite small, I was absolutely blown away by its taste. The uni was probably one of the freshest I have ever had. No need to fly to Tsukiji fish market here. It literally melted in my mouth, and combining with kelp (or “sea lettuce” as they called it), was a reminiscing taste of the ocean. I could vision myself snorkeling with the sea urchins in the south coast of Thailand. I still fantasize about that sandwich today. It was refreshing, tasty and worth every penny.
Pepe’s dessert was the roasted apple tart with cinnamon ice cream. She said she really liked the ice cream as the cinnamon flavour was quite pronounced. I was more captivated by the presentation of my butternut squash parfait ($9). The white maple cake made to look like sea sponge along side with the vibrant butternut squash mousse, maple caviar, olive oil ice cream and caramelized pumpkin seeds. And yes, it tastes as good as it looks.
Overall, Aldea is great for value; great food, relaxing ambience, and probably one of the best service I’ve ever had. I would definitely return again for my next visit to NYC.