Lata cooks with George Mendes at Aldea in NYC 

Hot chef cook-off

If you follow his Twitter (@MikeLata) you know that FIG chef/owner Mike Lata has been in NYC this weekend in search of a perfect bowl of ramen and dining at such foodie hotspots as Shorty's .32 and Marea. Tonight, he'll be joining George Mendes in his kitchen at Aldea in the Flatiron District, preparing a four-course bounty of Lowcountry fare. Mendes' restaurant serves seasonal, refined Portugese food, and Mendes, who worked with David Bouley, is well appreciated for his technical mastery and innovative menu. Back in May 2009, he broke out on his own and opened Aldea, getting good reviews along the way. The New York Times' Frank Bruni gave him two stars and said, "The cooking is precious, lusty, ultramodern, rustic and a host of other adjectives that don't normally squeeze together but find themselves in a tight, mostly happy clutch here. Although Aldea has a clean, sleek and relatively spare look, it has a much more complex taste. One minute you're nibbling on crisp pig's ears. The next you're carefully maneuvering your spoon under a translucent, quivering orb of concentrated mushroom broth — one of those liquid ravioli that the Spanish alchemist Ferran Adrià made famous — in an avant-garde consommé."

If you find that description intriguing, you'll want to make plans be at FIG in January when Mendes returns the favor and comes to Charleston for a night.

In related news, Lata is the cover boy of this month's Charleston Magazine. He assures writer Marion Sullivan that winning the Beard Award has not only increased business at FIG, but it's raised expectations among diners. "You have to deliver," he says.




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