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Saturday, July 16, 2011

All for Aldea

3 years.  That's how long I've wanted to go to Aldea.  From the day it opened, this restaurant has been wowing critics and diners, and I wanted in on that action.  I didn't just want to try it because it was the hot place to go; I wanted to try it because the Mediterranean and Spanish flecked menu called to me.  And because it was the hot place to go.

The problem is that Aldea is not a cheap restaurant.  Thankfully, twice a year, Restaurant Week alleviates the strain a restaurant like this would usually put on my finances.  But alas, another problem: the really good restaurants only participate in Restaurant Week for weekday lunch, if they participate at all.  Because Aldea is not located near my office, lunch is not usually in the cards, but yesterday the stars aligned.

My lunch slot opened up, as did Matt's, and there was one reservation left on Open Table.  We hightailed it to Flatiron to finally try the restaurant that had been eluding me.  We were strategic in our course choices so we could try as much of the menu as possible.

For the appetizer, we got the tomato-cucumber gazpacho and the pork and duck terrine.  I'm not sure how they packed so much flavor into the muscat wine gelee that accompanied the terrine, but it was some seriously strong flavor.  It was too much on its own but added a punch to the salty terrine.  The gazpacho was ridiculous.  I have never had a creamy gazpacho before but I loved it.  All the garlic-y flavor was still there, but this had an Italian twist with basil and some buffalo mozzarella.

For the entrees, we got the skate with zucchini ribbons and sherry foam and the farro risotto with orange, cucumber, and mushrooms.  Two great choices.  My first taste of skate wing was a hit, even more so when I realized what it was.  Skate is a type of ray (as in sting ray), so I was eating one of the flat flappy things you see on those guys.  It's a thin piece of fish, so it is important (to me) that it is not over-sauced, and the sherry foam was just light enough to flavor the dish without making you forget you were eating fish.  The farro risotto was a very interesting dish.  All the ingredients in normal risotto were swapped out, but the end result was similar to what you would expect.  Instead of rice, we had farro, which gave the dish a nuttier taste with more to chew on.  Instead of cream, [I think] it was made with tangy Greek yogurt.  It just worked, as did the toppings.

For dessert we got the peach and blueberry bread pudding with creme fraiche sorbet and the pavlova (meringue cake) with fresh berries, passion fruit, and coconut sorbet.  Both served as the perfect end to the meal.  I take that back.  The perfect end to the meal were the glasses of dessert wine the waitress brought to our table on the house since we had to remind them to bring our sangria earlier in the meal.  That's service.

Usually, Restaurant Week meals are lesser versions of what you could really get if you were willing to pay.  Now that I got a taste, I can't stop thinking about what a full blown dinner would be like.  Time to start saving up so I can find out.

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