photo by Bradley Hawks
George Mendes channels the rustic flavors of his Portuguese heritage at Aldea, his five-year-old Flatiron restaurant, creating visually arresting tapestries of contrasting tastes and textures that complement the equally striking décor. Transparent tube-light fixtures dangle precariously over seats that look onto the open kitchen, where the chef can often be seen dipping his hands into various stations behind the line. While Mendes adds global touches from Brazil, Goa, Angola, and Japan, the bulk of his menu maintains a Portuguese sensibility. Three such dishes have become his calling cards: the masterful arroz de pato — a jumble of pink, tender duck over vibrant yellow rice seasoned with olives, chorizo, and apricot purée; garlicky shrimp alhinho enlivened by a stock made from the crustaceans’ heads; and a plank of toast supporting tongues of sea urchin, cauliflower cream, shiso, and lime. The wine list features Portuguese vintages you don’t see every day, and the restaurant further ups the ante with a cutting-edge Coravin system that employs argon gas to make rare and spendy bottles available by the glass.