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Restaurant Openings

Week of May 18, 2009: Aldea, Bánh Mì 172, Chabela’s, and Studio Square.


31 W. 17th St., nr. Sixth Ave.; 212-675-7223
George Mendes has passed through the vaunted kitchens of David Bouley, Alain Passard, Roger Vergé, Alain Ducasse, and Martín Berasategui. And that’s not to mention his chef de cuisine stints at Wallsé and Tocqueville. This week, he opens his own restaurant, Aldea, which means “village” in Portuguese. That coastal nation inspired both the restaurant’s sleek, streamlined look, by Corton designer Stephanie Goto, and its food, which reflects the chef-owner’s heritage. The menu features Iberian-accented dishes like house-cured salt cod with melon-serrano jus, and integrates seasonal produce in a vibrant spring consommé (pictured). It also introduces a new word to the small-plates lexicon: petiscos, which run from $6 to $9, and include Greenmarket-sourced bites like Knoll Krest Farm eggs and Rick Bishop’s ramps with crisped pig’s ears. And speaking of pig: Cult porcine products like Benton’s country ham and Bev Eggleston’s pork shoulder also get menu shout-outs.

Bánh Mì 172
172 Bedford Ave., nr. N. 7th St., Williamsburg 718-384-0028
Dung Trinh isn’t jumping on the bánh mì bandwagon. He started working on his two-pronged Vietnamese restaurant two years ago, as the bánh mì universe exploded around him. By the end of the month, he’ll unveil Bánh Mì 172, a narrow alcove dispensing classic versions of the suddenly ubiquitous sandwich, from meatball to BBQ pork. Trinh, a Vietnamese native who grew up in Bay Ridge, worked front of the house at Indochine and La Esquina before going to cooking school, and in the near future, he and his partners will launch An Nhau, an adjacent dining room, bar, and garden. He plans to focus on family recipes, including those of an aunt who owns Houston, Texas’s Alpha Bakery, renowned for both its bánh mì and the baguettes they’re served on.

40 Ave. B, nr. E. 3rd St. 646-484-6750
You can’t open a Latin-Caribbean restaurant in this town and expect to succeed without affording the esteemed Cuban sandwich a prominent place on the menu. Chabela’s, which opened last week in the East Village, has done just that. The rest of the menu, though, skews toward the homestyle cooking of one of the owners’ Dominican mother-in-law and includes dishes like: guinea hen guisada (guinea hen stew), mondongo (tripe soup), berengena guisada (eggplant stew), and chuletas (fried pork chops). For breakfast, there’s the mashed green plantain dish known as mangu served in the traditional manner with eggs, sausage, and fried cheese.

AND … For reasons unknown, the giant new open-air Studio Square (a.k.a., S2) wants to take the oom-pah-pah out of the German biergarten experience. To that end: graffiti art, industrial fixtures, fancy bar tops, movie nights, and sangria. Still, a beer garden isn’t a beer garden without beer; thus S2 has 15-plus on tap, not to mention bratwurst (35-33 36th St., Long Island City; 718-383-1001).


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