Friday, August 12, 2005

Aurora Bistro (Main at Broadway)

First things first - I just want to move into this space! I love the blond wood interior, with it's modern curves around the bar, the uplighting, and the beautiful bathroom. I even love the charming girly, blue bike in the window with the baguette in its wicker basket. Yes, I'd move in, and I'd bike around on that bike. And then I would want to go shopping along Main St. with the wine guy with the warm smile. The menu holders match the walls. The puffy flower stem on each table is wonderful. I even like the fabric on the bench seating, and the glasswork in the divider that hides the bathroom.

My dining companion (a real foodie with much more wine knowledge than I) and I have been trying to get to Aurora Bistro all summer on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday to try their summer prix fixe menu series with wine pairings. A great deal at $40 (in the beginning of the summer) for three courses and BC wine pairings, and now at $45, still very worthwhile. A new menu each week. All courses are savory, with a fourth course of dessert and wine pairing available for an additional $10. With enough alcohol in us after the three courses, we opted to order desserts from their regular dessert menu ($8 each), accompanied by very good, very strong coffees (yes, I even loved their cream and sugar set. They have such pretty things). The bread was served with a very pretty pink butter, dotted with various unidentified bits in it. Actually, I wish our waitress had mentioned that it was just bread and butter though (and told us what flavoured the butter), because I thought it was an amuse bouche of some sort of paté, so I wound up getting a mouthful of butter on my bread. Yuck.

We started with organic tomato and cucumber gazpacho with horseradish chantilly. Incidentally, I started out in the beginning of the meal trying to take pictures discreetly with my super cool secret camera, but as the good food and good wine progressed, I became more and more conspicuous (flash! flash! flash!). We were expecting the gazpacho to be chunky, but this one was smooth, yet very flavourful. Quite a pleasing and refreshing starter. I enjoyed the horseradish cream served on top too. Gazpacho was definitely an acquired taste for me. I'm pretty convinced now, though. Cheeseboy has been a fan of the dish for longer. The really fun part of all this was the wine pairing, though! I wasn't really into the Red Rooster 2004 Pinot Gris that much when I tasted it alone, but with the food, it tasted like an entirely different wine, and I really enjoyed the combination. It was really quite a dramatic difference to me, a wine rookie, so I found the experience enlightening.

Blurry Spycam Picture of Gazpacho Posted by Picasa

Next we had local tuna gravlax with goat cheese mousse and house pickles. The wine guy told us he felt this was the best pairing of the menu, and Cheeseboy noted that the Township 7 2004 Sauvignon Blanc successfully cut into the saltiness of the gravlax. Again, it tasted like an entirely different wine to me when taken with the food. I found it to be quite an interesting wine on its own. I liked the pickles in the dish, and it was all very beautiful.

Local Tuna Gravlax with Goat Cheese Mousse and House Pickles Posted by Picasa

The third dish was Dungeness crab and Red Haven peach risotto. A tasty dish. I enjoyed this one. I didn't bother taking a photo of it. It wasn't that photogenic, as dishes go, but I certainly enjoyed the flavours (not the texture as much), and the Sumac Ridge 2003 White Meritage that accompanied. I gobbled it all up though. The crab and peach combination was very tasty.

Their tasting menu this week offered a blackberry galette with vanilla bean ice cream and a mini Okanagan Kir Royale (Sumac Ridge Brut/Elephant Island Cassis) for $10. We chose instead their ice cream sandwich, with Valrhona chocolate chip and (I think) dried tropical fruit, and their pannacotta. I can safely say it is one of the best ice cream sandwiches I've ever had.

Ice Cream Sandwich Posted by Picasa

I think their "chocolate salad" terminology, while cute, heightens expectations unnecessarily, as it's really just a few chocolate shavings on top, but that's a minor quibble. The pannacotta had a beautiful texture, and the pistachio cream on the plate was yummy. Both the decaf coffee and regular coffee were unusually strong and rich (made with Origins Coffee). I liked it, and I wonder if the CoffeeGeek would approve, as one of his recent podcasts (CG Podcast 011) touched on what a shame it is for great, fine dining restaurants to serve mediocre coffee at the end of the meal.

Vanilla Bean Pannacotta with Pistachio Cream and Chocolate Salad Posted by Picasa

A delightful meal. I would love to try the rest of their regular menus. But I did notice something on there that irks me a bit. They list a roasted half cornish game hen under their "large" section (the menu is broken up into "small," "medium," and "large). Call me a glutton, but how can HALF a cornish game hen be considered large? When I had Fiction's summer prix fixe menu, we also were served a half cornish game hen there. Is this a trend? Just serve the whole bird, people! Or both halves on the plate. The poor little thing looks so sad on the plate. Two-bite poultry! Like those two-bite brownies that you can get in the supermarket, but people generally wind up eating about 3 or 4 of those things, before something in their head clicks and says "maybe I should stop.." Well, I don't want to end this review on a sour note. I truly enjoyed my meal at Aurora. A fine experience. Beautiful room and china, great food, a very nice casual atmosphere, a trendy but not too trendy feel, good service (a little room for slight improvement here - our waitress never slipped up, and we always received what we needed, but I did feel a bit of a chill, that perhaps wouldn't be there if we had been in another server's section. I felt her lose her glimmer before I started taking photos, and after we both ordered the summer menu), and an all BC wine list. Having fun with the pairings definitely made the dining experience complete.

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