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Aldea, Portuguese in Flatiron - Chef George Mendes comes from Tocqueville

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We had a very nice meal here last night. We shared a plate of country ham (cured by Sean Brock of McCrady's in Charleston, SC, who was a guest chef here earlier in the month) that was served with a nice chunk of bread with a tomato jam smear. My wife's farm egg was a very nicely prepared egg scramble mixed with bacala and returned to the shell. I had the mussel soup, a more Asian than Portugese dish, I thought, but very nice with smoked ham chunks adding additional flavors on top of the mussels.

The main courses were quite large and perfectly prepared--the salted cod dish for my wife, a nice hunk of rich fish, moist but firm and flavorful, served with a kambucha squash mousse and root vegetables, the venison loin for me, served on top of a mound of greens and surrounded by baby turnips and baby carrots. We didn't think that we'd do dessert, but then we saw the menu and pulled the trigger--sonhos (little beignet served with salted caramel, concord grape jelly, and chocolate hazelnut sauces) for me was a too-huge portion, but also too good not to finish, while my wife had the chocolate pear parfait, which was a bit more manageable. A few glasses of white port on the house were a good finish, and a nice touch.

Service was polished and unobtrusive. The restaurant is sleek but lively.

The restaurant is at 31 W. 17th St., just off of 5th Ave.

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