On Friday night, my friend Zac and I ventured to Aldea in Flatiron for dinner.  We walked inside to the gorgeous decor and very nice service.  Glancing over the menu, I was explained that it was Portuguese and they had a dish on the menu that I have been dreaming about since my time in Lisbon in 2010.  I so badly wanted to enjoy this meal.  However, when all was said and done, I walked out thinking that it was one of the worst, disappointing meals I have had in the city in a very long time.

We ordered drinks to start, which took a while to actually come to the table.  I had selected the Tide Wind with vodka, pineapple, lime juice and a few other components.  The presentation was beautiful, but like the rest of the meal, the presentation far surpassed the actual flavor.

The shamrock on the top was a little fun, whimsical twist to the drink.  The fruitiness of the drink overpowered my senses.  It tasted nice, but it lacked anything special.

We ordered the food for the evening and then one of the waiters came out with a tray of four different bread variations.  It was the fancy presentation that you find at many high end restaurants and I was excited to dig in.  I selected the olive bread, shaped like a little crown.

I tried to rip a piece of the elegant, olive speckled bread.  It was hard as rocks.  Trying to bite in was such a process and struggle.  Once I finally did get a somewhat soft part and a bite, it did taste okay, but the effort was not worth it.

We ordered the Sea Urchin Toast to start, which I had read about as one of the better dishes at Aldea.  The presentation was simple, making the colorful piece of toast the center of attention in the middle of of a dark slab.

(Sea Urchin, Mustard Seeds, Cauliflower Puree, Lime, Toast)

This mini bite was the only dish I thoroughly enjoyed during the meal. The flavor of the sea urchin reminded me of a cross between lobster roe and the guts, which is the weird part of the lobster that I love.  It was creamy, with the crunch of the toast and then the light burst of the mustard seed.  I really enjoyed the playful textures and the complex flavors.  Although, Zac would disagree, thinking the texture was too strange for his liking.  I guess it just depends on the palate.

Next came out the cod croquettes.

(Cod, Potatoes, Sour Cream, Garlic Aioli)

The best way to describe this variation of a croquette is as British fish and chips combined into one bite.  The fried cod, mixed with the potato puree created this bite seemingly merging the flavors together.  The texture was a bit off with the inside being overly creamy, almost like the potatoes and fish had been blended together for too long. The aioli added to the croquette, giving it a necessary garlic flavoring.  It wasn’t terrible, but definitely not a memorable dish.

The next dish to arrive was the shrimp, from the first course portion of the menu, making it a bit larger in size.

(Shrimp, Garlic, Coriander, Pimenton, Pressed Jus, Saffron)

The flavors were nice in the dish, but lacked the complexity one would expect looking at the picture.  The shrimp was slightly over-cooked giving it a bit of a harder, dry taste.  It was hard to overlook the fish even though the broth was flavorful.

Finally, the dish that had drawn us to this restaurant was the Arroz De Pato, which has many similarities to a paella.  The dish is made with rice, duck and chorizo.  As I sat in anticipation for the dish to arrive, it brought back fond memories of days on the ocean in Portugal.  After hiking to the top of a castle, before running to a bus bound for Lagos, I had enjoyed this meal with Zac on the water in Lisbon.  It was one of the best things I have ever eaten and dreamed about finding it again.

From Portugal:

The version from Aldea, tried to be a funkier twist on this classic, simple straight forward dish.  It failed miserably.  Beyond miserably.

Aldea’s Version:

(Rice, Duck Confit, Chorizo, Olive, Orange Puree)

Horrible puts lightly the taste of this knockoff version of a dish I associate such fond memories with.  The combination of the duck and the orange, I suppose tried integrate the French dish of duck l’orange with Portuguese classic.  It was repulsive mixed with the rice and chorizo.  But the absolutely worst component of the dish were the olives.  I love olives and eat them like it’s my job at work, but these were disgusting. They tasted as if they were taken from a can and slightly warmed with the dish.  It’s disappointing the experience I had with this dish, and maybe it was an off day, since this plate of food has gotten rave reviews elsewhere.  Maybe they just haven’t been to Portugal to try the real thing.

This dish left the most horrible taste in my mouth.  It was to the point where my non-gum chewing self gnawed away on a piece of Orbit to try and bring back some freshness to my palate.

The only redeeming thing about the end of the meal, which I guess Aldea must do to ensure a somewhat decent tip, are the truffles given complimentary at the end of the meal.

(Raspberry, Dark Chocolate Truffles)

After getting past the cocoa overload, the inside was deliciously smooth and sweet with the raspberry and dark chocolate.  It was wonderful and at least let me leave the restaurant with a better taste in my mouth.

This meal was not worth it.  I recommend to stay for away from this once old, culinary delight and try something else.  The food is sub-par and the atmosphere does not make up for their lacking culinary skills.



Aldea – 31 W. 17th Street – New York, NY

Price: $$$
Location:  Flatiron, NY
Type: Portuguese
Perfect For: Date Night, Adventurous Eating
Open: Everyday
Reservations: Recommended, via OpenTable
Favorite Dishes: Sea Urchin Toast
Official Website

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