Sugar Rush: Gianduja Mousse at Aldea
At $25, the three-course prix fixe lunch at Aldea is easily one of the best fine dining values in the city. To make the proposition even more compelling, you can request one of the seats right in front of their open kitchen where you can watch the orchestra of chefs preparing their dishes. After an excellent meal that included grilled octopus and skate wing, I ordered the most involved-sounding dessert on pastry chef Miroslav Uskoković's menu. The gianduja mousse with toasted orange pound cake, banana brulee, Nutella powder, and frozen Greek yogurt ($11 when ordered at lunch a la carte).
Often, even at very good restaurants, desserts are composed of a simple palate of components, textures and flavors. And for good reason—simplicity is nice. Too many components can sometimes lead to an unsatisfying "kitchen sink" of a dessert, especially if there's no main focus ingredient for you to sink your teeth into. Aldea's gianduja mousse is the rare dessert that has a multitude of interesting components surrounding a satisfying core.
No matter what component you start with you're going to experience complimentary tastes and textures right from the get-go. The chocolate mousse, made with Valrhona gianduja, is the main focus of the dessert. It delivers an intense dark chocolate flavor with the fruity notes that Valrhona is known for. The rich, velvety mousse sits on a small disc of pound cake that functions as a buffer against the heaviness of the mousse, like bread under a pat of peanut butter. The frozen Greek yogurt is the perfect accompaniment to the mousse, as it's slightly tart and devoid of sweetness.
The hand-torched to order banana brulee is composed of ripe banana slices with a thin, crunchy, layer of caramelized sugar across the top. The soft slices are nearly the same consistency of the mousse, so the Nutella powder adds some helpful crunch. Imagine putting super-concentrated hazelnut flavored granola in your yogurt.