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George Mendes’s excellent “arroz de pato” (“duck rice”) isn’t technically a paella at all. The recipe doesn’t originate in Valencia (it’s a gourmet variation of a classic Portuguese dish), which, as every card-carrying paella freak knows, is the only true home of this uniquely Spanish dish. At his swank little Flatiron restaurant, Aldea, Mendes (a Portuguese-American who grew up in Danbury) cooks a mound of Calasparra rice with duck stock and a sofrito of garlic, onions, smoked paprika, and diced tomatoes. He tosses it with saffron and nickels of chorizo, mingles it with different textures of duck (confit, breast, crackly skin), then crisps it in the oven (like, yes, paella). The result is a steamy, crunchy, multi-textural ode to the glories of high-wire gourmet technique and old-fashioned, down-home goodness. Let’s just call it our favorite paella-like creation.
From the 2010 Best of New York issue of New York Magazine