Lunch at Aureole
The last time I’ve been to Aureole was nearly two years ago for Restaurant Week, in its former location in the Upper East Side. Back then, I used to think the food was ok but nothing extraordinary. I went in to Aureole with not-too-high expectations though its caliber and pricing should not be taken for granted.
Walking up to the desk where all the hostesses were, they all greeted me and walked me over to the dining room, just passing through the casual bar room. Generally speaking, the restaurant seems to be a tad smaller than its former location. It’s one large space that’s divided into two smaller rooms. Both rooms are adorned in lots of wood and marble have that modern, casual, glitz appeal. Technically, when I look over their Aureole Las Vegas site, it does look like they modeled the NYC location after it.
The dining room was polished, covered in plush carpeting, beige and brown walls with soft lighting. The banquettes that lined the walls were firm and had some pillows strewn around. My issue is the fact there is no transition from the bar room to dining room except for the wall in between the two that has a window open to the bar room.
What’s available during bread service were tomato basil rolls, whole wheat bread slices, Parker House rolls, and olive rolls. My choices were everything but the wheat bread. The bread tasted good. Though most were served at room temp instead of being warm and they’re all soft instead of the textural contrast I love about bread, being crusty on the outside and pillow-y soft, moist crumb. Also, I found the Parker House roll a bit too greasy for my liking.
The amuse served was a goat cheese cake, pine nut crumble, and watercress purée. I don’t remember what is that little chip on top of that cheese cake. Light and airy, savory, two-bite goat cheese cake that has some crunchiness from the pine nuts and a touch of bitterness from the watercress purée. It’s a nice little starter to the meal.
My appetizer was the Pasta Tagliatelle with lobster mushrooms, pickled ramps, scallion, pine nuts. The dish was great. The fresh pasta was nicely cooked springy and not at all mushy, and tasted quite eggy in flavor. The lobster mushrooms were meaty and sort of tasted like lobster. The condiments of this dish, if you will, were buttery, nutty pine nuts, a nice onion-y ramps that made this dish a bit complex with its pickled treatment and the scallions play along the onion factor.
When I saw Braised American Wagyu on the menu, I didn’t bother contemplating anything else for my entrée. This dish didn’t disappoint. Fork-soft wagyu beef, that’s easily cut with the fork and melts in my mouth, meets two purées of parsley and garlic, sitting on a small bed of pearl barley risotto. It’s really amazing. The chilly weather we’re having now in NYC, seems appropriate to have rather than when I had this a month ago in the humid heat.
The Double Chocolate Pavlova was under the suggestion of my waiter since I was indecisive between this or the strawberry and nectarine fool. This dessert was intensely chocolate-y from the silky, chocolate mousse yet light from the shattered chocolate meringues dusted in powdered sugar. The bracing tartness from the juicy raspberries made a nice contrast to all things chocolate.
When I asked for the check, petit fours went along with it. It seemed like every table had some variation of this since my neighbor had a fruit paté instead of a chocolate. Anyway, my assortment was a milk chocolate hazelnut croquant, a dark chocolate cinnamon truffle, an dark chocolate espresso macaron and a peanut butter cup (for lack of a better name for it, since I can’t recall its actual name). The croquant was the most humdrum of the four; it’s not bad but nothing too exciting for me. The cinnamon truffle was good though the cinnamon ganache was a bit muted in flavor. The macaron was fine though a tad soft (not a bad representation of macarons in a fine dining restaurant from all the ones I’ve eaten so far) for a regular sized macaron. The peanut butter cup was made in a dark chocolate shell that’s filled with a peanut butter filling (I think? It’s been a month and I didn’t take notes.), topped with crunchy, honey peanuts. It’s a sophisticated version of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and I did enjoy it.
Overall, I have expectations that it will do well in terms of food even though, it lacks the townhouse coziness of its previous location.
To those of you who are curious about Aureole and want to save a couple of bucks, they’re running a 15% discount – both the Dining Room and Bar Room – until next Tuesday, September 15th, 2009.
135 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036 (map)