Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A frenzied dinner at Aurora in Soho

It's rare that I receive multiple recommendations for the same restaurant, and it's even rarer when several recommendations come within a few days of each other. But that's what happened with Aurora, a cute little Italian restaurant in Soho-- two different people recommended it highly to me within the span of a couple days last week. So with my Mom in town and us aiming for a dinner in Soho, I booked an early weekday dinner at Aurora.

We arrived at 5:45 for our 6PM reservation, and apparently the place doesn't open until 6, so we were directed toward the small bar to wait. We watched the empty restaurant, which was decorated in an adorable farmhouse scheme with exposed brick, farm implements on the walls, and incongruous exposed ductwork on the ceiling. Right at 6 we were led to a table in the back (away from the cold door, which was very gracious of the hostess). The foppish Italian waiter brought us menus and attempted to explain some of the dishes. Finally, my mom settled on one of the specials, and we placed our order.

Shortly thereafter, a nice bread basket appeared on our table alongside a dish of olive oil, radishes, and anchovies-- certainly a peculiar combination. The bread basket included some slices of crusty white bread studded with green olives and a cone of tiny bites of focaccia. The focaccia was covered with caramelized onions and had that lovely bottom crust that is indicative of lots of olive oil and a well-seasoned pan. The white-olive bread was tasty as well, but since there wasn't any plain olive oil for dipping (and I largely steered clear of the anchovy-laced stuff), it couldn't really reach its full potential for me.

Bizarre anchovies and radishes. Sure.

Grease soaking through paper cone=focaccia deliciousness

Oniony goodness

Soon after we had tackled the bread, our main courses arrived. My mom had selected "La Grigliata di Pesce," or a mixed fish grill, which was a special that evening. It came with breaded and seasoned white fish of some sort, large prawns, and a jumbo scallop alongside a frisee salad and a green herb sauce garnish. I took the salad part, which was tasty, and my mom reported the fish was delicious as well.

All kinds o' fish

My own selection was "le Rapette," a beet appetizer. It was a small plate of tiny pieces of red and golden beets atop a dollop of fresh, milky ricotta. There were a couple pistachios scattered around, a garnish of microgreens, and a swirl of balsamic vinaigrette. The dish was delicious-- but it was tiny. I left there still quite hungry and was ravenous about an hour later.

Baby, baby beets

Unfortunately, I had to go back to work post-dinner, so we forwent dessert and asked for the check. We had to flag down a couple people to finally get the bill (even though there was only one other party in the restaurant), and when my mom had finally handed in her credit card, our waiter charged the card, put the slip in the leather sleeve, and proceeded to perform the entire wine service ritual for the other party in attendance while holding the completed check in his left hand. The agonizing minutes passed as we itched to get out of our seats, watching him prance around the other table pouring wine into glasses, our completed check so close and yet so far, far away. Finally he dropped the check and we raced out of there.

So- Aurora was pretty good. And that's pretty much it. I'm sure it would be better on a date or on a bustling Saturday night, but as it was, we were treated to high-quality and tasty but very small and somewhat overpriced food, provided by a genial but clueless waiter. So I'll stick with three Offset Spatulas on this one-- and add that I'd still recommend you check it out.

510 Broome Street

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