Aurora Bistro

January 16th, 2006 · No Comments

dessertAurora Bistro
2420 Main Street, Vancouver
Tel: 604-873-9944

Tue-Sun from 5:30pm dinner
Sun 10:00am – 2:00pm brunch

Main Attraction

By Lorna Yee
Eat Vancouver Columnist
Monday, January 16th 2006

*** and 1/2 (of four stars)

Chosen as one of enRoute Magazine’s annual “Canada’s Top 10 New Restaurants” in 2004, Aurora Bistro has continued to offer excellent, locally-sourced food since its inception. With its modern, neon-blue sign and sleek blond interior, the décor suggests an innovative approach to West Coast cuisine. Chef Jeff Van Geest honed his skills in the kitchen with local luminaries, such as Bernard Cassavant and John Bishop, and his philosophy of using the freshest ingredients in simple preparations are evident in many of his dishes. Kurtis Kolt manages the room with grace and enthusiasm, and the service is likewise attentive.

oysterThe menu is divided into “Small”, “Medium”, and “Large” plates—the medium being more substantially-sized appetizers probably meant for sharing, or, for those with a smaller appetite, to serve as a main. Of the small plates, one of my current favourites is the Hazelmere Farm beet salad with Okanagan goat cheese ($10), a dish elevated by the delicate orange chive blossom vinaigrette. The beets—purple, red, and yellow—are sliced into batons and attractively stacked; this popular pairing of the earthy beets and tangy goat cheese elicits cravings. Another popular dish that I’ve had on two occasions is the Lentil-flour crusted Fanny Bay oysters with curried aioli and pear chutney ($13), inspired by the flavours of the east. The crisp coating hugs the creaminess of the oysters, and the sweet/tart chutney pairs well with the creamy sauce. The Nicola Valley Venison Carpaccio with pickled eggplant, grilled brioche and black truffle aioli ($11) I sampled at a recent event is another wonderful small plate, with the grilled brioche offering the rich crunch of a crouton against the velvety and slightly gamey slices of venison.

sablefishOn my first visit, I had one of Aurora’s signature plates—the Potato-wrapped smoked sablefish with local mussels, served with a ladle of vegetable chowder ($24). A wide strip of potato is wrapped around the lightly-smoked fish, and then it appears to be pan-fried. The dish looks like a golden brown parcel resting atop the spinach—a treat indeed. (Those concerned about seafood sustainability will be pleased to learn that Aurora is part of the Ocean Wise program.)
I had the luxury of attending a tasting event at Aurora a few months ago, and the team at Aurora put out an astounding six courses for a full house—this event really gave the kitchen an opportunity to shine, and the diners were the rich benefactors of their stellar performance. The standout dish of the evening was the most succulent duck dish I’d ever had—Cowichan Bay duck two ways: the leg done in confit, and the breast roasted, along with roast peach and pine mushroom stuffed zucchini blossom. Sadly, a quick look on their website confirms that this dish isn’t a part of their current menu, but I’m waiting patiently for the day it returns. The current duck dish is the Maple-Thyme glazed duck confit ($13), which I enjoyed on braised red cabbage on a past visit. The housemade Venison Fennel sausage with sunchokes in Merridale cider ($13) is absolutely gorgeous—a perfect balance of fat and lean meat, with the slightly tart flavour of the cider offsetting the richness. On another recent dinner visit, I had the game special—seared venison on chantrelle hash. The portion of chantrelles on my plate was exceedingly generous, and the gorgeous rosy slices of venison were juicy and not the least overdone.

I’ve eaten my fair share of desserts at Aurora over the past year, with the sugar pumpkin tarte tartin and pine mushroom ice-cream being the most interesting and most satisfying. I always appreciate a new twist on a classic dessert, and the sweet taste of butter really comes through in their pastry. The cake portion of the ganache-studded chocolate cake on their current menu is light and spongy, and a nice contrast to the rich ganache. (However, I admit my tastes lean more towards the hedonistic pleasures of ultra-dense chocolate desserts, so this cake doesn’t do it for me.) The crème fraiche cheesecake (served with Coronation grapes and sorrel sauce) offers a bit of tanginess without the slightly more assertive flavour goat cheese-based cheesecakes that seem quite trendy now. There is a short list of carefully chosen B.C. cheeses that includes the oft-admired Poplar Grove “Tiger Blue” plated with an apple carrot salad.

cakeKurtis Kolt has chosen a wine list that brings the pride of B.C. to the forefront. Recent favourites are the Kettle Valley 2003 Viognier, the Cedar Creek 2003 Platinum Reserve Chardonnay, the Laughing Stock 2004 Chardonnay, and the Laughing Stock 2003 Portfolio.

Word on the street is that they do a spectacular Sunday brunch, but I’ve yet to have the pleasure. The five-spice donuts and duck bacon on the brunch menu are highly praised by friends in the know.

Chef Van Geest’s cuisine is testament to how good our local ingredients are, especially when they are deftly prepared by a dedicated team. This is inspiring food in a welcoming space. Simply put, Aurora shines.

Other photos:
Hazelmere Farm beet salad
Venison fennel sausage
duck confit
seared venison

Aurora Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tags: Modern Canadian

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