Aldea 31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011 is where I had the last of my 30th birthday dinners. It was with my college gal pals, friends forever. It wasn’t the perfect dinner, fraught with an equal number of exuberant yums and bewildered umms. It’s actually a wonder how inconsistent it can be coming from the same kitchen.

We got seated on the second floor, where Lon pointed out the airplane-like feel. We all agreed, a long narrow space with low ceilings, very grey. The four cocktails we tried were horrible, either too sweet or too strong, nothing was in balance. The waitstaff was accommodating and made ample effort to fix things, but I lost faith in whoever was bartending and opted not to take another drink.

The appetizers were pretty good, but little complaints lingered in my mind. The Mussel Soup (mushroom, coconut, and linquica sausage) and The Slow Poached Egg with Sweet Peas and Bacon (green garlic broth, truffle) were both served luke warm. I tasted great potential in both which were potently flavored with the listed ingredients. You can see the nice shavings of truffle here.

slow poached egg, sweet peas and bacon

The Presunto was good though not noteworthy, but it was served with some soggy tomato smeared bread.


The Sea Urchin toast was nice, but again not notable, and so tiny, probably a 3″ long piece.

sea urchin toast

The Foie Gras “Mi Cuit” was smooth and just flavorful enough without getting gamey. Unfortunately, it was served with what we called toothpaste gelee, which just ruined it completely. The peanuts and cocoa nibs were an interesting little sprinkle that we did enjoy.

froie gras "mi-cuit"

The Salt Cod Croquettas were extremely creamy on the inside. While some enjoyed that, others thought the wetness felt under-cooked.

salt cod croquettas

There were two outstanding and flawless appetizers. The first was Shrimp Alhinho, heavy on the garlic, pimenton, and saffron. The shrimp had that perfect snap, and every drop of the the rich sauce was wiped up with bread.

Shrimp Alhinho

The Lightly-Cured Mackerel was another winner, just an even balance of salty, sweet, and sour. It was suitably named for that lightly tightened texture, just slightly beyond raw.

lightly cured mackerel

The big surprise was that entrees were better than the appetizers, which is SO rare. The Hanger Steak was excellent, perfectly cooked, nicely crusted, and a smokey, peppery-ness lingered.

Hanger Steak

It was served with yuca fries that were fine, but forgettable.

yuca fries

I can’t believe I somehow didn’t take a picture of my lamb dish. It was amazing and beautifully presented: a few pieces of perfectly medium-rare lamb loin, with a juicy piece of lamb belly that exhibited its layers, sweet spring peas, and giant morel mushrooms. Sigh…

The Arroz de Pato is also a winner, a similar feel to paella but with a focus on duck. The duck confit just melts in your mouth. The duck cracklings are a nice texture contrast. The olive and chorizo round out the flavors and bring them together with a starchy rice.

aroz de pato

The one very weak entree was the Halibut, served below room-temperature. We had to wonder if it was a mistake or an intentional, bad decision.  Like other weak dishes of the night, the flavors had potential, yet the dish lacked execution.

Halibut with tomato and leeks

The halibut was accompanied by black rice, the dish’s savior: ultra rich and creamy, very cheesy.

black rice

As if to come back full circle (to the disastrous cocktails), the desserts were pretty bad. They were beautiful but all suffered from serious problems. The Caramelized Brioche was not cooked through. The creme fraiche pink peppercorn ice cream was more of a sorbet and when you bit into a pink peppercorn, you would think, “Oh my gosh, what is that?”

caramelized brioche 2

The Sonhos (doughnuts) were bland (missing that pinch of salt that even sweets and doughs need), served with three weakly flavored dipping sauces.


The Dark Chocolate/Espresso oval was the only I’d reasonably order, though the accompaniments didn’t go and it was a very small piece.

chocolate/espresso with mango

Aldea has some potential, but you’d really have to know how to navigate the menu full of landmines in order to avoid some seriously bad dishes, or at least parts of dishes. It just so happens that Immaculate Infatuation put up a post on Aldea the day before I went, so I did avoid the Tile Fish, which they described as “gross”. On the flip side, I’ve covered a lot of dishes here, so you can now go knowing which dishes are really good and have a pretty stellar meal. With the right ordering, it could be heavenly. Just start with drinks somewhere else (maybe Craftbar), and pick another dessert spot too (maybe L.A. Burdick).

pistachio cakes, strawberry lychee, chocolate

posted by jessica at 08:22 AM Filed under Portugese, Restaurants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.