Aldea, the one Michelin star restaurant in Gramercy, was a place I’ve been wanting to try for a bit. Usually I like to go to the Michelin starred restaurants during Restaurant Week since you often can try what would normally be served at the restaurant for a lower cost. However, Aldea’s most famous dish, the Arroz De Pato, wasn’t on the restaurant week menu but I still wanted to go try one of New York’s most talked about dishes. Through the scaffolding that basically covers most of 17th Street, lies a glass door that will lead you into Aldea. The restaurant has high ceilings and a lofted second floor but the first floor is much smaller and more intimate. The open kitchen is a nice touch as well. Baby blue and white are really the main colors seen throughout the restaurant but my biggest complaint about the design would be the awkward three tables closest to the front of the restaurant. These tables really should be reserved only for walk-ins as they are small, cramped and feel isolated from the rest of the restaurant.
Chef George Mendes created one of the few upscale Portuguese restaurants in the city but the menu really does have more of an international feel to it. To start I had the Spanish Octopus with Squid-Ink Puree and Potatoes. The dish was on the smaller side and at $23 one of Aldea’s more pricey appetizers. I did notice the freshness of the octopus and the the squid ink did add a lot of flavor to the dish but ultimately I have found better Octopus in many Greek restaurants in Astoria. The famous Arroz De Pato is basically Duck Paella and tasted like any other paella I have ever tried. The Chorizo and duck were the stars of the dish but overall I can’t really say this was anything remarkable nor even close to one of the best dishes I have ever tasted. But I will say that the cocktails at Aldea are surprisingly good. The Trade Wind (Vodka, Pineapple, Lime, and Creme de Violette) was very light and refreshing.
While I really wanted to like Aldea, I just don’t think that it lived up to all the hype surrounding it. The octopus appetizer was small portioned and was mediocre at best (the Octopus at Thalassa was much better). The Arroz De Pato, while worth the $22, wasn’t any different than any paella I have ever tried before and on top of that, I was still hungry after I left Aldea. If you really need to try Aldea once to get it out of your system, I totally understand but don’t set your expectations too high.
Note: I had to bump Aldea down from a 6 to a 5 since the food is just too mediocre for what the restaurant is charging. $23 for an appetizer is a bit excessive especially when you leave the place still hungry.