Aldea: Disarmingly Enchanting

18 Jul

As I stepped into the softly lit entrance at Aldea, all the stress and madness from the earlier part of my day slipped away.  The pretty white decor seemed to brighten my harried mood (after a crazy week, this is just what I needed), and I was quickly seated by a bubbly hostess.  As my reservation was early, I was given the choice of sitting at a table or at the chef’s table; there were few diners already in the restaurant.  I promptly chose a seat at the chef’s table and began to peruse the menu.

One of the best and worse things about Aldea presented itself to me right then: everything on the menu sounds appealing.  While this allows for many options, it also made me wonder what the hell I would order!  I finally selected the cuttlefish with curry-coconut soup and the baby goat with chanterelles, pickled cherries, and buckwheat. 

As I watched the chefs prepare their first orders of the night, I enjoyed an olive baguette dipped in olive oil.  While the bread was not served warm, it was very good all the same.  Watching the action in the kitchen suddenly seemed a trip to the ballet; the chefs worked together to create a sort of harmony–one that was interesting and fun to observe. 

Soon, my appetizer arrived, a delicate and frothy soup accented with striking squid ink that hid four tender pieces of cuttlefish.  The warm spiciness of the curry with the coconut and the cuttlefish was well-balanced.  This appetizer was the hook for a great meal.

After the soup, I was sent a sample-size of the scallop entree compliments of the chef.  The scallop was cooked a la plancha to a perfect golden brown on the outside but remained just cooked, sweet, and juicy on the inside.  The farro risotto underneath was a savory compliment, and the cucumber and orange gave refreshing aromatic qualities to the dish. 

Although I could have gone home thoroughly nourished and satisfied at this point in the meal, I had yet to eat my entree.  When the dish arrived at my place, I was thrilled.  How many times have I been served a boring piece of cooked meat in my life?  Too many.  Well, this time, I was not.  The dish was an artful masterpiece, a palate of various goat applications.  Some meat was more firm and was seared, while other (possibly leg) was tender as if slow-roasted or braised.  A small piece of liver was rich and had a bold, awesome flavor.  The subtle gaminess of the meat went ridiculously well with the tangy pickled cherries and the earthy mushrooms and buckwheat puree.  The bowl of steaming-hot buckwheat on the side was inviting, comforting, and interesting all at the same time.  This dish seemed to be a lesson in things of the earth–animal,  fungus, fruit–why they all belong together.  Perhaps the crowning point of the dish was its simultaneous complexity, creativity, and sensibility. 

Finally, as I could not resist dessert, I went for the strawberry tasting.  While the sorbet was not as smooth and dense as I would have liked, I thought that the semifreddo was delightful–it was light and punctuated with bits of candies lemon that went well with the strawberry.  The basil gel was another interesting dimension.  Finally, the black pepper biscuit with nutmeg whipped cream and strawberries–a shortcake–was irresistible.  Too, the tristar strawberries definitely shake you by the collar, yelling, “See how much better real food is?”  They are wild, and their lilliputian size is in indirect proportion with their loud, vibrant, and exponentially sweeter flavor.

strawberry tasting

strawberry tasting

After I paid my bill–a meager $50.00 subtotal for a delicious meal–I sat and dazedly watched the chefs continue their synchronized kitchen dance.  I finally mustered up the will power to abandon my entertainment and I departed, vowing to myself that I would return soon. 

I made a reservation to return the next day.  If the above acount of my meal did not get the message across, perhaps this shows my impression of Aldea best.

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