18 July 2009

a dinner at: Aureole.

I had the pleasure of dinner at Aureole this past Thursday. The new 42nd Street-Times Square location boasts a dramatic champagne decor with vaulted ceilings and a glass wine storage room looming over the dining room. Five of us settled into a table and ordered a round of cocktails. I reveled in the Hendrick's Cucumber Gimlet while nibbling on mini baguettes with melty, creamy butter.

We chose a few appetizers: Mussels and Squid. The mussels were certainly average, aside from the presence of tiny ham cubes- which I didn't think needed to be there. The Squid which came on a bed of Fava beans with dollops of sun dried tomato. The tentacles were quite lovely with a curiously firm (but not rubbery) texture.

We overlapped a bit in our ordering, but among our selections for individual plate first courses:

Alaskan Salmon Tartare with cucumber, black olive, dill, piquollo pepper and a medium set egg yolk. The dish (pictured below) offered an orderly presentation and decent flavor. It is something that can be found in many types of seafood/sushi focused restaurants. I felt that it was a generous portion for a starter.

Soft Shell Crab: deep fried with braised carrots, Belgian endive, granny smith apple and what appeared to be your average tartar sauce. I could tell by the skin/coloring that had formed on the sauce that the plate had been sitting under a warmer for some time. I was also disappointed with the degree at which the crab had been deep fried. I felt that it gave the meat a bit too much of a fish and chips joint sort of appeal.

And the favored: Foie Gras Torchon with wild strawberries, anise hyssop and pistachio brioche. The tart flavor of the strawberries was an excellent match for the rich savory texture of the Foie Gras. Noted that it wasn't the most superb that we had tasted, it is quite excellent.

For our main courses, we didn't branch out beyond:

Berkshire Pork Chop (photo above). The chop is served with porcini mushroom, squash and peaches. Pork is not my thing, but coupled with peach: it comes together nicely.

I chose the Halibut with creamed corn, gnocci, basil pesto and sugar snap peas. I chose well. This main dish proved to be the strongest among the other choices. The halibut firm, flaky and gorgeously moist. The gnocci seared exterior with smooth center, the creamed corn offering a balance and surprise (photo above).

Wild Striped Bass with white asparagus, smoked yellow tomato and watermelon. A pretty dish, but second to the interest in the halibut (photo above).

We took five different directions for dessert:

Cherry Brioche Panzanella with almond cream, roasted cherry sorbet and fennel.

Pan Fried Carrot Cake with goat cheese cream, red grape sorbet, maple walnut and balsamic. The cream and sorbet were the shining parts of this dish. The carrot cake didn't do anything special for me. I had anticipated eclectic textures. Perhaps I shouldn't have.

Others at the table chose:

Chilled Strawberry Soup with queso fresco, cilantro and ancho meringue. The dish came much more tidy than you would expect given the title.

Caramel Panna Cotta with warm banana bread, galangal and candied coconut. The banana bread was good, but certainly not the high point of the meal.

However, the Milk Chocolate Pudding Pie with honeyed apricot and black/white sesame came into the spot light. Certainly the winner in presentation, texture and flavor.

In closing: Auroele performs in service, expectations for the class of restaurant and in several of their dishes. While I enjoyed the experience, I would likely not return for sometime. I would rather check out other restaurants, rather than revisit any of the tastes in this dining room.

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