Aureole, NYC 3

August 3, 2009

Aureole has long been one of New York’s top restaurants. Its Zagat rating has been the second highest category for many years, putting it equal with Chanterelle and Eleven Madison Park, among others. Michelin gives it a star even though its cuisine is “Modern American” more than French. We have enjoyed Aureole several times over the years and so we were ready for another good meal when we went to its new location on July 27, 2009.
It is not clear why Aureole moved last month from its comfortable townhouse on East 61st Street, where it was founded in 1988, to the ground floor of the new Bank of America Building  on 42nd Street just east of Times Square. The front part of the new restaurant is the Bar Room with casual dining; behind it, separated by a glass wall and a large open doorway, is the Dining Room. The minimal scope of the visual and acoustic division detracts from the needed upscale image, but without it there could be an oppressive enclosed feeling. 

Our aperitifs were glasses of Taittinger Cuvée Prestige Brut NV Champagne for Linda and of 2001 Aureole Cuvée, Iron Horse, Sonoma for me. Nice. The bread basket was passed, with a substantial variety. There was a little amuse-gueule of a peeky-toe crab salad with pine nut crumble.

The prix-fixe menu is three courses with quite a wide selection for $85. We were also offered, and chose, the Parallel Tasting Menu at $115. Each of the four courses had two small dishes with a common element. As the website explains: “allowing for what would be an eight course meal to be enjoyed in the same amount of time as it takes to experience four courses.”  Since we were in the two-month “preview” period, there was a 15% discount. We ordered a bottle of 2005 Domaine Pavelot, Aux Guettes, 1er Cru, Savigny-les-Beaune, which had a lovely flavor, but was unassertive. Fortunately, the wine cellar had migrated from the old Aureole location; it remained to be seen if the cuisine did. The old-shoe ambience certainly had not.

The first course was
Heirloom Tomatoes
Petites Lettuces, Pine Nut Crumble
Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Cheese Gelato

Heirloom Tomato Gratin
Baguette Crisp, Prosciutto di Parma

The tomatoes were nice, but not exceptional. I really liked the ricotta ice cream. The gratin was good.

The second pair was
Yellow Peaches
Seared Diver Sea Scallop
Fava Beans, Baby Fennel, Dill Crème Fraiche

White Peaches
Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras
Petite Arugula, Tarragon, Pickled Jalapeño

The scallop was good, but the rest of it added nothing interesting. There was an unpleasant sweetness to the crust of the foie gras, which didn’t have the crispness of being seared.

Third Course
Grilled Leg of Lamb
Tuscan Kale, Candied Cherry Tomatoes
Black Garlic Emulsion

Australian Rack of Lamb
Peas & Carrots, Medjooi Dates, Almonds
Vadouvan Devonshire Cream

Like the previous course, this was okay, but was uninteresting. There was also an unwelcome sweetness to the second dish.


This was a white peach granité.

The dessert pair was
Wild Strawberry Shortcake
Lemon Basil Sherbet

Red and Black Raspberry Pavlova
Lemon Verbena Chantilly

Once again, nothing special.

There was a big tray of mignardises from which we could pick.

My choices: a fruit jelly, a coconut macaroon and a chocolate hazelnut chunk.

Finally, we were given a cone of warm cinnamon beignets and, to take home for our breakfast, a wrapped “madeleine.”

Aureole was founded in 1988 by its then chef, Charlie Palmer. Now he runs the Charlie Palmer Group which includes twelve restaurants, four of them in Nevada, boutique hotels and wine stores. He authors books and makes TV appearances.

The new Aureole gives me the impression of having been designed by the group’s corporate efficiency expert, probably from Las Vegas. The jamming together of the two dining rooms is certainly efficient, but detracts from the ambience. The time saving theory of the Parallel Menu is ludicrous. Our charming young waitress was surprised when we lingered over the last of our wine before starting our pre-dessert; she told us that she would inform the pastry kitchen of the delay. I imagine that their market research shows that they will find a lot customers for the new Aureole in its spot next to Times Square amid many new office buildings, but they will not be us.

To see our blogpost from our meal at Aureole a year ago click here. It wasn’t perfect, but you can see how much more interesting and substantial the $115 menu was then.

3 Responses to “Aureole, NYC 3”

  1. Sally Says:

    No birthday cake?

  2. Thanks for this report. I’ve been anxious to hear how the new Aureole performs.

  3. Ellen Says:

    Wow! Just what I was afraid of. Seems the move has not been kind to Aureole. Aureole has been among my favorite restaurants for many years, but don’t much care for the casual spin they’ve put on the restaurant. Even Aureole LV still feels like a upper-class restaurant. Based on what I saw at a preview cocktail party, seems that they’ve shifted the focus from an upscale haute cuisine restaurant to a big bar with the upscale restaurant thrown in as an after thought. I’m not rushing back anytime soon.

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