With only five free minutes to make a choice for a nice dinner in New York, I quickly came across a strong review of Aldea by Adam Platt and paid attention. The chef, George Mendes, had worked with Alain Ducasse, David Bouley and many others along with a stint at one of my favorite NY places, Toqueville. Now I was very intrigued.
Even though I had just started scrolling the alphabetical list of eateries, I stopped right there without moving to the "B"s.
But would they be open Monday?
Yes! Could I snag a last minute reservation? Yes!
But would I be a dreaded 5:30 or 10:30? Not at all. I wanted to pinch myself. We were in with an 8:30 timeslot.
I liked the way this was going. We arrived to a pretty storefront decorated with an elegant play of etched glass stripes that looks like rainwater streaking the glass.
A friendly hostess ushered us to our table. We got a corner banquette spot. Nice. I like that it is mostly comfy booth and banquette seating.
Then, noting a specialty cocktail on the menu made with cucumber juice, I asked the startled waitress if I could have a splash of this in a gin and tonic. She wasn't sure if I was in my right mind, I suppose. Nevertheless, five minutes later, the drink arrived: cool, perfect. I guess the bartender knew I was just fine. And that was just the beginning.
The restaurant totally delivered with elegant and creative food. Market fresh ingredients beautifully prepared to make each layer of flavor sing.
My pictures really do not do the food justice but I'll post a couple anyway:
Sea urchin on toast: A heavenly, briny delight. Served on a napkin with the thinnest sliver of toast with lightly seasoned cauliflower cream.
Fresh market peas, applewood smoked bacon and a poached egg bathed in a (peashoot?) foam: Simple, perfectly prepared & blissfully delicious.
Maine scallops over faro risotto with a delightful and unexpected addition of my favorite ingredient: cucumber. This time as small dice sprinkled on top with sections grapefruit as just the right foil to offset the risotto and the impeccably grilled seafood.
We'll skip my lame low light picture: Trust me it was amazing...
Duck Confit with duck crackling and slices of chorizo: Very good but perhaps overshadowed by the other dishes which were real standouts.
We ended the meal with the cheese plate, wavered on desserts and then were happily surprised with a chef's trio of tiny sweets to end the meal
Wine list: a range of offerings and prices to suit an everyday budget (under $30) or a special occasion ($300- yowza). We opted for an excellent Portuguese Syrah, So, Bacalhoa Terras Do Sado ($45) a very nice find. I am really loving the new universe of wines from this country and was happy to find a variety of labels to discover at this restaurant.
a good find
Note to self: Remember that the next company I launch should have a name that starts with an "A." It helped me find this lovely place easily and quickly and saved me a lot of time by popping up early on a long list!
Aldea Address: 31 W. 17th St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-675-7223
After a long day trolling the endless aisles at the Javits center, with aching muscles you are then faced with the daunting task of the long blocks back to civilization. You walk long, dusty blocks past grimy taxi repair shops and wooden carriages waiting for fresh horses to trot to Central park, past doorways of prop houses and strip clubs. Then you pause on 9th avenue surveying rows of dubious delis, dark wooden bars and neon lit wholesale butchers. Suddenly, on the corner of 39th and 9th, there appears a mirage of cool, modern design.
HK is a vibrant bar restaurant with white padded banquettes and orchids in shot glasses dotting the tables, a welcome place to meet up after a long day.
They pride themselves on their martinis and offer a happy hour 7 days a week. Be forwarned: their "special "cocktails are all on the sweet side.
Happily, there's also classic fare without the sugary flourishes.
A surprisingly good menu of tasty salads and appetizers ( recent thumbs up were the sesame seared tuna with a seaweed salad, watermelon and feta w/ mint and cucumber and nice -- not greasy-- fried calamari)