Summer Restaurant Week at Aureole and Gelato at Otto
This is considered Round 1 of Restaurant Blitz Week, as I call it, since most foodies who love to eat out would try to nab reservations at the pricier yet delicious restaurants around New York City. I admit I was one of the crazy people who would call the restaurant’s reservation line about a month in advance the moment it’s open…as well as making arrangements with people who can eat with me on that particular day.
I think the gods knew that the day I wanted time off from work on Wednesday, went against me and made me feel miserable. Why? The rain fell like there was no tomorrow during the morning.
All the commuters were stuck underground due to the flooded tracks and everyone was running late. OMG. I hate public transportation but I depend on it to get to the city. *sighs* Anyways, I eventually got there but soaking wet and peeved.
This similar scenario occurred to all of my friends who were joining me later in the afternoon. They were almost an hour late. Yeah, you’ve read that correctly an hour. I don’t blame them for being late, I’m blaming MTA (the mass transportation agency run by the city). I felt awful especially for Helen since she’s traveling from Staten Island to the Upper East Side, and that took her at least two hours. Poor thing.
While I was waiting in the restaurant, Aureole I met one of my readers, Carol. To my surprise, she recognized my face and she stopped for a few moments to introduce to her and say hi to me. Um, Carol if you’re reading this now, I’m terribly sorry for my lack of words I didn’t say to you since you caught me off guard and frazzled wondering where the heck are my friends but it was certainly nice meeting you!
Eventually Robyn, Giulia, and Helen have arrived. If you’ve been a reader for a while you remember the latter two from the macaron/fooding hunt we all participated the past April.
We all gathered into this gorgeous, elegant, Upper East Side restaurant and were escorted to the second floor to be seated.
Here’s the menu.
Restaurant Week Summer 2007 Menu
First Course Selections
Chilled Sweet Pea Soup
Hot Smoked Salmon
Main Course Selections
Roasted Amish Chicken
Garganelli Pasta with Wild Mushrooms & Caramelized Onions
Triple Chocolate Terrine
Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake
We eventually ordered, since we were contemplating what we want to eat. Then the bread and butter was served. We had a choice of an olive roll, French roll, sour cream foccacia, and a multigrain roll. Giulia chose the olive, Robyn and Helen each had the French roll, I had the focaccia.
My focaccia was fine but it was tiny. The appealing part about eating that particular piece of bread was the sea salt sprinkled on top giving it some personality to the almost bland, chewy bread. The sweet butter was good but it was cold, as you probably see from the cold butter plate. I prefer my butter to be at least room temperature for any spreading.
Then came out our appetizers.
Robyn’s pea soup was really refreshing and tasty. It’s like eating fresh peas in puréed form. I’m assuming the crab crisp was good since she did eat it…but she’ll tell you when her post is up.
Helen’s composed salad contained a large, thinly shaved slice of Idaho country ham, grilled figs, bitter greens, preserved lemon zest, and drizzled with aged balsamic vinaigrette. Helen never tried figs before and she’s willing to try them hence her ordering it. She liked the figs since it’s so sweet. The ham was proscuitto-like but it lacked that melt-in-your-mouth texture that proscuitto normally has but it’s still pretty delicious. The bitter greens (which were basically frisée, arugula, and radicchio) didn’t appeal to her at all. She doesn’t like bitter or sour foods so she pretty much shared the greens out.
The hot smoked salmon was delicious. I really loved the heirloom tomatoes used in this dish because it contrasts the earthiness of the salmon – bright, sweet acidity. The avocado on top was really creamy and it brought some richness that is needed for this dish. The tart underneath all of the tomatoes was very crisp, even though it was practically the last thing I ate from that dish.
The main courses…
Helen’s Garganelli pasta with wild mushrooms tasted really good. The tomato confit in this dish contrasted the earthiness of the mushrooms; the goat cheese sprinkled on top gave the pasta a tangy, pungent bite.
Giulia’s roasted Amish chicken was practically one of the best chicken dishes I’ve ever had in a long time. It’s juicy, well seasoned with the beautiful golden skin. I liked the scallion risotto – creamy and cooked spot-on – but I think the cheese was a bit heavy-handed.
Robyn and I each ordered the seared hake. This is a fabulous fish dish. The hake was seared to perfection. The etheral, crisp crust meets sweet, fleshy fish. The spicy, red pepper sauce, which I think is supposed to be the salsa verde, is a good pairing to the fish. The various summer beans that are in this dish made it hearty and filling.
Then came dessert!
We were all feeling for chocolate. Hey, we’re women! We love our chocolate. Anyways, the best thing from this dessert was a bit of a shocker – the banana ice cream. That’s the quenelle-shaped scoop that is sitting in front of the terrine the photo above. The ice cream was wonderfully rich and creamy, and the banana flavor was very concentrated. It tasted like they used a pound of ripe bananas and pack it all in a pint of ice cream with a touch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Yeah, it’s very banana-y. I’ll take a gallon of it home if I could. The crunchy cookie (possibly graham cracker?) crumbs that sit on the bottom of the ice cream made it even better. Yums.
The chocolate terrine was tasty but it’s a bit too sweet for my taste. The dense chocolate terrine has specks of praline floating around that brings in textural contrasts that is needed for all that creaminess.
The caramelized plantains were the biggest disappointment. It didn’t compliment the dish since it has the texture of a potato and it doesn’t really taste like a banana. The starchiness of the plantain wasn’t really cooked out so it has the texture of a potato, not the smooth, creaminess of a banana.
We had fun with taking photos of each other during dessert and a bit after. We paid the check and left to the nearest subway station since Robyn and Giulia has to go back to work downtown. Helen and I joined them to go for another of round of dessert. I know it sounds ridiculous but we’re melting in the subway, I don’t have enough time to watch the movie Ratatouille with Helen, and she never tried gelato before and she’s up for it. So why not?
We headed down to Otto for some gelato. As we perused their menu, Helen decided on the Black & White Coppetta and I have the Ricotta & Lemon Coppetta.
Helen’s coppetta was very delicious. Basically, the entire thing was sweet: milk chocolate gelato, creme fraiche gelato, caramel flavored whipped cream, and chocolate covered hazelnuts.
I was feeling for something lighter and tart since the dessert at Aureole was basically chocolate and bananas. The lemon sorbet was very tart and smooth. The ricotta gelato was creamy and delicious. The sweet sauteed cherries contrasted the acidic flavors of the lemon curd and sorbet. This wasn’t exactly a light dessert in terms of calories but it’s better than laying on the chocolate and sugar like Helen’s Black and White.
Well, that’s it for this insane day of eating out. Seriously, that evening I just ate steamed vegetables since I was really sinful and gluttonous with lunch and the extra dessert. Eh. Three more restaurants to go…
34 E 61st Street
New York, NY 10021