It ain’t easy maintaining village living in the city. So many people, so much noise.
Chef George Mendes, however, has come close. He’s worked with tight crews in awesome kitchens — Tocqueville, Wallsé, Bouley. Tomorrow he branches out on his own with Aldea.
Okay, it’s not a Mediterranean village, but that’s the cuisine (with a Portuguese accent): razor clams a la planxa, presunto (dry-cured ham), sea urchin toast, escolar with fresh chickpeas.
Aldea means “village” in Portuguese, and the space is sort of set up like one. The ten-seat bar/lounge at the entrance leads into a small dining room, which opens into the chef’s area — six seats at the counter, chef’s table, open kitchen. “I want everyone to sit here,” Mendes says, which makes this the town center (complete with impressive sculptural light fixture). Upstairs is a private dining room and another eating space.
Twenty-one people came together to install the 2,100-pound stove custom-made in France.
It takes a village.
Aldea, 31 West 17th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues (212-675-7223).