• Critics’ Pick
  • Aldea

  • American Nouveau Portuguese $19-$27
  • 31 W. 17th St.
    New York, NY 10011
  • Neighborhood: Union Square
  • Phone: 212-675-7223
Aldea Photo
George Mendes is one of the New York restaurant world’s more storied ghosts. The Portuguese-American chef (Aldea is a riff on “village” in Portuguese) has worked with an impressive array of divas around the globe (Alain Ducasse, Kurt Gutenbrunner, and David Bouley, to name a few). His own restaurant, however, is small, stylishly modest, and characteristically muted. The double-height, blond-wood-paneled space is set with chairs covered in plush white and blue leather, and the view of the outside world is filtered by a façade of white-striped glass. The room is luminously lit and partitioned with sheets of more glass, which make it feel intimate and also worldly, like a boutique tapas bar in some hidden modish section of Barcelona. Mendes is steeped in all the fashionable, highbrow cooking techniques of our day, and his Mediterranean-accented menu is a distillation of disparate influences rendered in the chef’s spare, deceptively simple style. It begins with a limited though decorous selection of small-plate petiscos, like layers of fresh sea urchin laid over thin sticks of toast spread with cauliflower cream. There are only five appetizers, and if you’re wise, you’ll order a creation called “shrimp Alhinho” (made with seared shrimp, flecks of fresh cilantro, and a delicious shrimp reduction finished with smoked paprika). The open kitchen allows you to observe Mendes and his acolytes slaving earnestly in their spotless whites and caps. The entrées they produce rotate, but have been everything from chicken stuffed with foie gras to house salt cod with chouriço and smoked mussels. The dish everyone at my table went slightly nuts over was the arroz de pato, a kind of newfangled trencherman’s paella made with nickels of chorizo and olives mingled with salty wafers of duck crackling and pieces of soft pulled-duck confit. With its pocket-size kitchen, its small but sophisticated menu, and its technically accomplished, low-profile chef, Aldea looked like a prototype of the gourmet restaurant of tomorrow when it opened in 2009. The compact, two-page wine list features an eclectic selection of bottles from eight countries, many of which are under $50. The desserts (plus sorbets and cheeses) are adept little riffs on simplicity itself: feathery light, doughnut-hole-like “sonyos,” and the best, the rice-pudding tarte. The pudding is smooth instead of sticky, and it’s garnished in an unexpected way, with diaphanous, slightly salty ribbons of rice crackling.

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  • Hours

    Mon, 11:30am-2pm and 5:30pm-10pm Tue-Thu, 11:30am-2pm and 5:30pm-11pm Fri, 11:30am-2pm and 5:30pm-midnight Sat, 5:30pm-midnight Sun, closed

  • Prices


  • Payment

    American Express MasterCard Visa

  • Special Features

    Design Standout Notable Chef Open Kitchens / Watch the Chef Hot Spot Prix-Fixe

  • Alcohol

    Full Bar

  • Reservations


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