Friday, July 23, 2010

Summer Restaurant Week: Aldea

We're in the middle of Summer Restaurant Week and this time around, there weren't too many new places I wanted to try, so I have been using it to revisit spots where I've had some great meals. Restaurant Week was just extended until Labor Day, as it has been for each of the past few rounds.

Aldea was the first return trip I made and it didn't disappoint. The menu has just three choices each for appetizer and main course and two for dessert, but the offerings looked interesting and based on my previous experiences, I knew that the kitchen would do them well. The service has remained attentive and helpful as well.

Rustic Pork & Duck Terrine with muscat wine gelée and wild arugula. I would never call terrine, a sort of meatloaf of mixed meats, one of my favorite foods, but I am generally interested in trying it as I am most things. This terrine had a pretty strong, gamey flavor, probably drawn from the duck meat. The gelée had a tangy bite with a recognizable alcoholic quality to it that made for a good contrast. I had expected the texture of the terrine to be closer to the smoothness of a pate, but it was less spreadable and more solid. I liked it, but it was a good share plate.

Arugula & pickled cherry salad with Sao Jorge cheese and hazelnuts. Salads can be really boring, and while this one, visually, didn't shine, the ingredients made it satisfying. Each component had a different texture. I loved the thin wedges of semi-hard cheese that was similar to a Swiss cheese. Chopped hazelnuts were a great choice for their distinct nuttiness and crunchiness. And the cherries showed me that the chef was really thinking about how to compose a more interesting salad, given that it's not a fruit you see as often.

Farro risotto with pickled cucumbers, oranges, mushrooms and orange powder. I'm becoming obsessed with farro. I think it's a great-tasting versatile grain that was the backdrop to this beautifully complex dish. It had a surprisingly harmonious union of fruits and vegetables that on paper seem awkward together. A little sweetness, a little tartness and a gentle creaminess made this incredibly delectable.

Spanish mackerel "a la plantxa" with escabeche jus and zucchini ribbons. The fish was cooked and seasoned just right. Though many might be turned off by the skin, I grew up eating whole fish and I think it helped to keep the meat of the fish moist. The escabeche jus was a vinegary sauce with a slight kick that paired well.

The desserts were excellent hot-weather consolations. The roasted peach tarte was a solid pastry cup filled with a light custard and slices of peaches layered on top. A side of cinnamon ice cream was nice, but needed to be more frozen.

I loved both desserts but, the mixed berry brioche pudding with creme fraiche sorbet really wowed me. It was buttery and rich, but the sorbet helped to set it off and the portion was just right. These desserts were so good and exactly right for a summer menu.

I left this lunch happy. We were sated and didn't feel leaden or unhealthy. We'd had a wonderful meal — one that perfectly highlighted the best parts of summer.


  1. Anonymous12:34 PM

    are these still shots from a bodega video camera? i think i saw them on a ny1 crime report.

  2. Anonymous12:34 PM

    suspect #4 looks fishy to me.