"I'd rather do this than talk about music any day of the week," says Daniel Kessler, the guitarist for Interpol. We're sitting at the chef's counter ofAldea, George Mendes's 17th Street restaurant, and Kessler is taking a break from promoting the band's new album, El Pintor. For a dude who's in a band that's known for brooding, Kessler's enthusiasm for restaurants is almost surprising. While trying to schedule the dinner, he quickly offered a full index of restaurants he wanted check out: Bâtard, Contra,Sushi Yasuda, Racines, and élan among them. “I’m a little OCD about stuff," Kessler says. "So once something’s on my brain I’m like, I must go and do. It’s very Rain Man-esque."
Lest you doubt Kessler's affinity for food, know that, along with Ravi DeRossi, Kessler co-owns the seafood restaurant Bergen Hill in Carroll Gardens, with a Le Cirque alum in the kitchen (who incidentally is also aTop Chef alum, but that doesn't mean much to Kessler, who doesn’t own a television). He has favorite restaurants from touring the world, and he's happy to share them: In Mexico City, it's Contramar. (“I could eat there three times a day. My friends there know — it’s like taking your kid to McDonald's.") In London, it's Barrafina. ("I love to sit at the counter. It’s bustling.") And in Paris, Aux Deux Amis. ("A simple, tiny little bistro. They serve small plates but you can just sit there and get cheese.") In Lisbon — appropriate, given Aldea's Portuguese slant — he tells me about going out with some guys from the National to a former monastery that had beenconverted into a beer hall with beautiful seafood.
We're sitting at Aldea's chef's counter, six seats overlooking the kitchen. Mendes is there. As it turns out, he's a big Interpol fan — a front row, right-up-in-the-action kind of fan who most recently saw them play a few years back in Washington Heights. Later, they'll exchange emails, Kessler promising tickets next time he plays New York, Mendes returning the favor with a copy of his upcoming cookbook. But first, it's time to eat. The meal starts with an amuse: coconut meringue with gin-and-lime granita. Kessler asks about the green shavings on top. Lime zest.
There's a little more lime in our next course, corquetas de bachalhau. "I usually don't like croquetas," Kessler says. "But these look great." He takes a bite. "Reminds me of Lisbon."