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Chef George Mendes, a Bouley alum, has been getting much deserved praise for his new NYC restaurant, the Portuguese-Spanish Aldea. A few highlights from a recent visit:
1. The best seats in the Stephanie Goto–designed space are at the chef’s bar in front of the open kitchen. My friend and I snagged two and immediately recognized the female chef on Mendes's team who has been compared to a Vermeer portrait. Every 15 minutes a new group of Portuguese diners lined up to thank Mendes for making avant-garde food that still somehow reminded them of their grandparents’ cooking.
2. Mendes serves Pennsylvania baby goat three ways—braised, grilled and confit—alongside toasted buckwheat, chanterelles and pickled cherries. The meat was so tender and delicious it made me wonder if goat may soon trump pig on menus.
3. Critic Alan Richman says the sonhos at Aldea are in the running for Manhattan’s best mini doughnut; I second that. The tiny fried balls of dough—filled with spiced chocolate, smoked-paprika apricot jam or hazelnut praline—are made according to Mendes’s mom’s recipe. She’s been known to make an appearance in the kitchen to make sure he’s not taking too many liberties.
4. The staff pointed out a hysterical error on a bottle of Viñendo de los Vientos’ Alcyone Tannat dessert wine from Uruguay. Alcyone, the label reads, is “the goddess of ‘clam’ and tranquility.”