|George Mendes outside Aldea|
A while ago, we went to a then brand-new restaurant called “Aldea” at 31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011 (Tel: 212-675-7223). Its chef and owner, George Mendes, had the misfortune of opening at the precise moment Wall Street collapsed and fine dining with it. But he soldiered on to justifiably great reviews. And he kept his prices out of the stratosphere and stayed afloat until things got better. He did so in a stunning space—very cool and minimalist—so it was somewhat a surprise to hear that the name “Aldea” means ‘villages’ in Portuguese.
|Aldea's cool and modernist interior|
George Mendes himself is a first generation American of Portuguese descent with an impressive resume. He’s worked with all the big boys—Alain Ducasse, David Bouley, Alain Passard and Roger Verge. When he set out to run his own place, he used the Iberian peninsula as his inspiration. He’d spent three years of his career in Spain with yet another culinary star: Martin Berasategui at the eponymous 3 Michelin starred restaurant in San Sebastian. At Aldea, he has introduced New York to his very individual takes on Portuguese classics. This wonderful stew from Food and Wine is a terrific example. It’s not at all hard to make. In terms of braises, it’s economical both in the time it takes to cook and the ingredients that go into it.