I posted awhile back about my excitement in scoring a restaurant week reservation for Mistral. However, I did the unthinkable-I cancelled it (a big you're welcome to the lucky soul who snatched it up after I let it go...) The reason? They finally posted the menu, and I was definitely not excited about the options. Salmon, chicken, or steak for entrees? Yawn. Caesar salad as a featured appetizer? Double yawn. It's not that I doubted that it would be good, it's just that for restaurant week I like to "live a little dangerously"-try something slightly off the beaten path, and go to a restaurant where the chef seemed to put some care and thought into the menu.
So we ended up at Aura, located in the Seaport Hotel. Usually hotel food is the epitome of yawn-inducing cuisine, but Aura was taken over by former OM chef Rachel Klein, and I was excited to finally try the famed chef, as I never got a chance to try OM under her helm.
Z and I got two completely different menus; let's compare and see who "won"!
Appetizer: watermelon gazpacho with goat cheese croquettes
Entrée: grilled kajiki with corn custard, snap peas, and wasabi
Dessert: coffee parfait
Appetizer: steak & peaches
Entrée: lamb with miso eggplant, apricot ginger vinaigrette
Dessert: cherry tart
The appetizer was not what I expected at all, but in a good way. Instead of the usual thick and chunky gazpacho, this was more broth-like, a chilled, delicate soup with tiny pieces of watermelon floating in a tangy and sweet "broth". (Re-reading this, that was a terrible description. The soup was indescribable, in a good way-very unusual flavors). The goat cheese croquettes-warm and delicious-were served on the side. Still not sure if they were supposed to be mixed with the soup, but I did anyway =)
Z's steak and peaches was filet mignon carpaccio, sliced so thin it was nearly see-through, with tiny diced peaches and a delicate ginger lime vinaigrette. It was a very nice start to the meal, but mine was definitely the winner ;)
My entrée was kajiki, a fish that tastes very much like swordfish. On its own it was very plain, but with the wasabi sauce it was tasty. I really enjoyed the very crunchy and "al dente" sugar snap peas. The best part though was the corn custard it came with-like polenta but silky smooth and very sweet. Z's lamb was cooked perfectly, and the apricot ginger vinaigrette and miso eggplant added an intense Asian flair to the dish, with a potent hoisin flavor that was really really yummy. I would say Z won this round, though I am still thinking about how I can replicate that corn custard...
The coffee parfait was nice because it wasn't too rich; it was like coffee ice cream but light and fluffy. Z's cherry tart was a more substantial end, a rich flaky crust with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. I'd probably say mine won, but I also don't really like cherries. So, to be fair, I guess we'll call it a tie =)
All in all, Aura is a great choice for special occasion dining--excellent service, fancy setting, and imaginative and yummy food. However, I don't think it will become a usual haunt anytime soon.