To celebrate Jamie’s birthday on Friday, we went somewhere neither of us have been and to a city we normally wouldn’t head to to dine out (with the exception of Cafe Tandoor): Christopher’s Aurora Bistro.
If you haven’t been, it’s a century house turned restaurant near Aurora Farms. The decor inside isn’t particularly my taste, but I can see why a lot of people find it quaint and charming. We were trying to think of how to describe it, and decided on traditional colonial – even historic looking, if there is such a design description. Another thing that stood out to us instantly, was well – us. We were by far the youngest people in the restaurant. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, or something that would turn me off to a restaurant, but it was something we definitely noticed. Although we were thoroughly entertained by the other couple sitting near us. The women reminded me of the great aunt in Christmas Vacation and had us laughing (with her) throughout the night.
The menu featured a good mix of eclectic American dishes with several items that caught my eye. I settled on the panzanella salad and smoked salmon tagliatelle pasta with a brie and asiago cheese sauce. Jamie went with the grilled tomato and basil soup and Chilean sea bass special with mango chutney and mashed potatoes.
Before our meal came out, we devoured the loaf of bread served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (okay, we actually went through two loaves!). I understand nothing about the bread and its accompaniments sounds like it would stand out, but this bread was amazing – piping hot, super crusty on the outside and soft and perfect inside. We were both a little surprised by just how much we enjoyed the bread.
As for our meals, thankfully the bread wasn’t the only thing that impressed us. My salad was unbelievable good. Even Jamie, who isn’t normally one to load up on tomatoes, was quite impressed. This dish was fresh, flavorful and contained the best balsamic vinegar I have ever had (and we are always trying and experimenting with new ones). I even asked the hostess if she could write down the type the chef uses so I could pick it up. She explained it’s not about the type, but rather he reduces the balsamic for hours over low heat to reach that perfect syrup consistency. I could go for that balsamic right now over a bowl of fresh strawberries…
My pasta was also enjoyable, with lots of large chunks of smoke salmon and a sauce that was not nearly as rich as I was anticipating. In fact, I would have welcomed more of the brie to come through, but it was still satisfying. Jamie also liked his fish and I really enjoyed the mashed potatoes that accompanied it. These were Thanksgiving-quality mashed potatoes.
A couple other things worth mentioning – the service and music. First, the music. Whatever satellite station they had on reminded me of the now defunct WBBG, the channel my grandma used to always have on in her car featuring one class after another, from Nat King Cole, to Frank, to Otis to Ray Charles. A lot of our favorites were on that night and we were both happy with the overall selection. I love when a restaurant gets it right with the music.
As for the service, unfortunately it wasn’t as good as the music. There was only one server (apparently they told the other to go home because they weren’t expecting a full house). So we waited 20 minutes to be greeted and I just wasn’t impressed with our server overall. He was definitely knowledgeable about the food, but didn’t seem to care about our wait and at times seemed put off that he was waiting on us, or even serving in general.
Service and ultra traditional decor aside, the food was exceptional. The menu and chef definitely lived up to everything I have heard prior to. For that, I’d go back.