Aldea restaurant – If you ask the average New Yorker to picture a Spanish restaurant they probably won’t have any difficulty with the task. There are several to choose from in the city, and if you asked your imaginary citizen to describe what they were seeing you’d probably get a depiction of tapas and sangria. Ask them to describe a Portuguese restaurant, though, and you’re more likely to get a blank stare, even though the countries are neighbours.
George Mendes, head chef of Aldea Restaurant and proud Portuguese-American, is looking to do away with those blank stares. The cuisine in Aldea may be advertised as ‘Mediterranean’ but there’s no denying the strong influence of the Algarve both on his menu and in his restaurant’s decor. Step into Aldea and you’ll find Mendes serving dishes in a little reminder of home, with birch trees in the alcoves and a relaxing authentic soundtrack providing atmosphere.
At the back of the room, you’ll find the man himself in his showcase kitchen, happy to let visitors in on the magic. If you’re prepared to pay a little extra to book one, you can even reserve a spectator seat right in front of him.
Entrees at Aldea Restaurant can cost as little as $25, but if you want to sample the cuisine here ‘properly’ then you’re advised to consider the $165-per-head tasting menu, on which the 60-day-aged strip loin is the star player – although the celery root custard certainly stands out as a curiosity.
Michelin Stars: 1
Address: 31 West 17th Street
For a list of the very best eateries in town, check out our guide to all the Michelin star restaurants in New York.