Chef George Mendez, Aldea Restaurant, Recommendation, Chef Recommendation, Where chefs eat in New York, Where to eat in New York, Flatiron District, Gramercy, Manhattan, New York City, 10011, Portuguese, Mediterranean,




Q & A with Chef George Mendes

Q. Please tell us about Aldea:

A. Aldea is a Portuguese and Spanish inspired modern restaurant. I interpret the flavors of my upbringing through my own style which I like to call refined rusticity.

Q. You use ingredients like Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams and Bev Eggleston’s Pork on your menu. How did you decide to use them?

A. Benton’s Ham was introduced to me by a fellow chef/friend, Sean Brock  (McCrady’s, Husk) and I just fell in love with it because it reminds me of the hams that I ate throughout my childhood.

And for Bev Eggleston, I like supporting small farmers who raise and continue to sustain heritage breed pork.  

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Q. Are there other particular food purveyors that really inspire your creativity?

A. All the farmers with whom I have built relationships with over the years. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to get Aldea to where it is.

Advice / Tips

Q. Sardines seem to fall into two categories: either you love them or hate them. Can you share some buying/serving tips to convert people to the “love it” side?

A. Fresh sardines are just as delicious as fish you would consume at your favorite sushi spot. They are slightly fatty with a wonderful oceanic flavor and little oil content.

Q. Can you recommend a particular canned sardines brand and what should we look for?

A. Most canned sardines on the market are Portuguese - so there you have it!  

Q. Any key Portuguese ingredients people should really pay attention to and why?

A. Portuguese olive oil is very under-rated. It tends to have wonderful floral notes and low acidity like those offered from Esporao, a winery that also produces olive oil.

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Q. My favorite unique ingredient/tool/ gadget is:

A. My favorite unique ingredient is Kombu. It’s used mostly in Japanese cuisine, but I think it’s often overlooked. I like to use it in stocks and sauces to bring an extra note of flavor as well as umami.

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Q. A great culinary resource (website/publication/book) is:

A. Kitchen Arts & Letters, a store in New York City. It has an extensive, international library.

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Q. What restaurants are serving authentic Portuguese food and what do you recommend ordering?

A. Seabra’s Marisqueira in Newark, NJ. I recommend all shellfish dishes, particularly a shrimp and mussel rice called a Mariscada.

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Q. What restaurants in New York serve food you crave and what do recommend ordering?

A. Two Boots Pizza. I crave anything there!

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Q. Where do you like to eat off-the-beaten track?

A. I like Roberta’s in Brooklyn (Bushwick). Carlo and his team cook just simply delicious food.

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Spain & France

Q. Having lived in Spain and France, what are some off the beaten track restaurants we should go to and what should we order?

A. Rafas in Roses (Uber-fresh shellfish) and the leg of lamb at Chez L’Ami Louis in France.

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Q. I like to start out the evening drinking:

A. A Gatorade during Aldea’s family meal.

Q. I finish the night with:

A. An Amstel Light at Aldea’s bar.

Q. What are a couple of your favorites on the wine list at Aldea?

A. I love the wines from Esporao, Periquita, Poema, and the Twin Vines Vinho Verde.

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Details of George Mendes’ recommendations for restaurants, stores, food purveyors and wine.


- Organic Chicken Braised with Coconut, Kaffir Lime and Lemongrass

- Baby Goat Terrine



Photo courtesy of George Mendes

Q & A


Gramercy / Flatiron


31 West 17th Street

New York, NY 10011 (view map)

T: 212.675.7223 (make a reservation)




Mon - Fri: 11:30am - 2pm


Mon: 5:30pm - 10pm

Tues - Thu: 5:30pm - 11pm

Fri - Sat: 5:30pm - 12am

Sun: closed