Changes at Aurora: Prix Fixe Menu and More

Filed under More Signs of the Times: Aurora sends word they are now offering a $45 dollar prix fixe menu Monday through Thursday night. Here it is:

Shaved Belgium Endive Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

Soup of Day

Mediterranean Mussels with Saffron Broth

&

Pan Seared Calves Liver with Red Onion Marmalade and Truffle Potato

Roasted Pacific Salmon on Creamed Sweet English Pea Pureé and Pearl Vegetables

&

Homemade Sorbet

Avner and Celeste Samuel are making a few other changes, too. They are adding “Restaurant and Bar” in neon to the sign, they have removed the linens from the tables (they’ve got new tables and chairs coming in), and they’ve expanded the bar area to include stools (it was previously just a service bar). Also, they have 75 new wines with “significantly reduced pricing.”

If you’ve wanted to try Aurora but have been afraid you couldn’t afford it…you just might be able to now.

2 comments on “Changes at Aurora: Prix Fixe Menu and More

  1. Sounds great. DDude and I will try it. We need to keep these hometown restaurants in bidness.

  2. A disparaging, embarrassing, demeaning experience with almost completely wonderful and divine cuisine.

    Having experienced the divine cuisine and credit card shock of previous visits to Aurora, my wife and I and another couple (none of us neophytes, as we all have experienced top rated [i.e. Michelin Guide 3 stars and equivalents] wining and dining in the US, and well as through out France, Europe, and the rest world) made reservations to try the new prix-fixe, 3-course dinner menu and more credit card friendly wines at Chef Avner Samuel’s Aurora Restaurant as promoted in a variety of published articles and internet sites.

    We started our evening with champagne in response to: “To start your evening, our Chef would like to welcome you by offering champagne by the glass tonight featuring Veuve Cliquot Brut or Moet Chandon Rose.”
    We knew that this was not complimentary champagne, but its presentation and play on words, especially to Francophone ears, oozed of snobbery. In any event, as we enjoyed our delicious glasses of champagne (recently opened bottles, fresh, and properly chilled,) the Chef send out their delicious signature amuse-bouche of velvety hot custard served in a brown hen egg topped with salmon and herbs (used to be dotted with a mount of black caviar.) After a friendly, interesting discussion and explanation on “How do they get the top of the egg shell cut off so evenly,” our waiter asked if we wanted to try the Chef’s new tasting dinners or preferred to see the menu.

    When we responded that we would prefer to see the menu as well as the prix-fixe menu, the fiasco of an inexplicable lack of knowledge and condescending body language by the service staff emerged. No, there was no printed prix-fixe menu available to look at. What is on the prix-fixe menu? … “I believe it is soup or the bouquet of greens and goat cheese salad and the Dover sole with scallops or the beef tenderloin..” … and What is the third course? … “Uh, I am not sure, … I’ll have to check …” A few minutes later, a different waiter came back explaining that the prix-fixe dinner is soup or salad, and a choice of Sea or Land (the specific sea or specific land dish would be the Chef’s choice) … and What is the third course? … “Oh, the third course was the amuse-bouche.” We could not believe what we were hearing and the demeaning attitudes we were experiencing. After discussing some options among ourselves, which included paying our tab and leaving this embarrassing and disparaging situation, we decide to stay just to see what would ensue. One person ordered a la carte with the caviar and the grass fed beef tenderloin, and the rest of us chose the prix-fixe menu, one of us ordering the soup and Sea dish, one ordering the salad and Land dish, and myself ordering the salad and Sea dish.

    The first course dishes were served: the caviar, the squash soup, and the two bouquets of greens with goat cheese. They were all excellent.
    The server then brought the second course dishes: the grass fed beef tenderloin and three Sea dishes. When it was pointed out that there were supposed to be one Land and two Sea dishes, the server promptly remarked “Oh, you want to change your mind from a Sea to a Land dish?” To which we responded: “NO, we ordered one Land and two Sea dishes, not three Sea dishes.” At that point our original waiter made an appearance and clarified that indeed he erroneously obtained three Sea dishes when two Sea and one Land had been ordered, and that he would endure the wrath of the Chef for his error. Still not making any gesture to take away the erroneous Sea dish, he indicated: “So are you sure you still want the Land? It will take at least 15 minutes for it to be ready.” Yes, please bring a Land dish.

    The grass fed beef tenderloin and the Land dish (which was albeit smaller but also seemed to be tenderloin when it was served a few minutes later,) were superb and succulent. The only disappointing dishes served that evening were the Sea dishes which were unimpressive, mediocre tasting pieces of what appeared to be hake fish.

    So even though most of the food was truly memorable, fabulous, and excellent (we agree with Dallas Morning News columnist Rod Dreher, Feb. 6, 2009,) the condescending and disparaging attitudes displayed during this dinner made it an embarrassing, unacceptable experience.

    We understand it is good business to cozy up to long time customers who consistently spend money, but that should not mean treating customers who are looking for a “good deal” as if they are somehow second class, undeserving of care, and subject them to condescending attitudes. The irony of the situation is that if we had been treated with respect, we almost certainly would have returned to try the (more expensive) tasting menu at a later date. We have observed this phenomenon at some other upscale restaurants during restaurant week also. The bottom line is if you don’t like having to offer bargain prices to customers then by all means DON’T DO IT! But please don’t entice customers to come to your establishment only to bait and switch them by condescension to go for the more expensive items. This defeats what we would think was the original purpose to build a larger customer base.

    In French, such an experience is called an “attrape-nigaud.” In English, it is referred to as: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” We will not be patronizing Aurora Restaurant again, and although that may not have much of an impact on them, we will be retelling our experience broadly; and that will hopefully have an impact on their attitudes.