Dude, I get it: the restaurant scene in NYC is expensive. Maybe it exasperates you and leaves you thinking that you’ve got to be a hedge fund D-bag to get away with eating at epic spots on the reg. Through my parents’ vocation as restaurateurs, I’ve been lucky enough in life to have been afforded the chance to eat at many of those spots. Still, I commiserate.
You might think restaurant week is the answer. I would disagree. It’s not the same experience. The ambiance changes with the clients that don’t normally frequent the restaurant. Staff can be bit weary to the types of crowds it brings in.
The chink in the armor of the spendy NYC restaurant scene is… lunch.
Is that too obvious? are you saying “no duh, CJ?” I don’t care if it’s obvious- it needs to be said. The fact is, many of the best restaurants in the city have bonkers lunch deals that make it cheaper to eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant than at Led Lobster.
I’ve decided to hit up these spots semi-systematically with some epicurian companions. We’ve been trying to hit them up on Fridays because it’s the summer and it’s a perfect way to end the week. Stay tuned for more posts from the Friday lunch club.
First up: Aldea.
Aldea’s lunch deal is one of the best in the city. Hands-down.
$25 for a 3 course lunch at a Michelin-starred restaurant helmed by a James beard-nominated chef and overall badass George Mendes.
The cuisine? New Portuguese with hints of molecular gastronomy.
The space? Beautiful, modern, small, and intimate. The best spot in the restaurant is one of the six bar seats overlooking the restaurant. There, you get to witness the masters at work, creating beautifully plated meals full of bold, dynamic flavors that characterize and slightly abstract Portuguese cuisine.
As a point of ridiculous comparison, $25 at Guy Fieri’s monstrosity of a times square restaurant would get you barely half of the listed entrees. And those that do are dubbed with such names as “Motley Que Ribs,” and “Unyawns Cajun Chicken Ciabatta.”
Shit, I just realized that using Guy Fieri in an argument is the foodie equivalent of Godwin’s Law. I don’t care- it still fits.
$25 at Aldea gets you something like this:
A rustic pork and duck terrine, accompanied by a muscat wine gelée and field greens.
A perfectly-executed and succulent free-range chicken breast with asparagus, English peas, chorizo, and fava beans.
Dessert brings along the likes of a ridonculous Gianduja mousse with toasted orange pound cake, banana brûlée, nutella powder, and frozen Greek yogurt.
There are a few other options for each course, and they’re all fantastic.
The rest of the dining experience is great. The service is on-point, the wine list is both accessible and interesting, and being able to see the kitchen in action makes for a dynamic meal that’s not depressing should you decide to eat alone.
It’s time to take back weekday lunch, and Aldea is a perfect way to kick it off.
Aldea is located at 31 West 17th Street. For more info, head to http://aldearestaurant.com/