Despite lower prices and a focus on potentially less decadent-sounding local ingredients (not to mention the introduction of previously shunned chicken), glamorous is still the best adjective to describe chef Avner Samuel’s Aurora restaurant. The heavy curtain that separated us from the dining room upon entering felt appropriate. We weren’t even really sure we should be there. Are we serious enough for such a restaurant? Should we turn around? The high-backed booth glittered with crystal and white china we were reluctant to touch, but seconds later, one of several smiling servers descended, proffering water and wine lists. We picked a Neyers Carneros Chardonnay with a hint of shame—it was one of the least expensive—until sommelier Edwin Saravia told us a charming story about the winery’s owner. The menu was a basket of riches (American caviar, foie gras), but we chose a pan-seared Diver scallop and an order of Yukon potato gnocchi. The gnocchi were easily one of the best things we’ve eaten this year: delicate and creamy, with mushrooms and candied tomatoes. The scallop was wrapped in prosciutto and cooked until just barely done. Perfect.
For mains, we chose Maple Leaf duck breast and Colorado lamb. While we waited, we munched on house-made baguettes slathered with soft butter and watched regulars leave the restaurant floating on kisses from the waitstaff. Soon, the entrees arrived. Chef de cuisine Claudio Berrina prepared lamb that was crimson, tender, and so good that it was gone in a flash. The duck breast was rolled and filled with foie gras. While the flavor was fantastic, it was awkward to cut, and we had a hard time getting a good bite. Desserts from pastry chef Bethany Costello both wowed and disappointed. The funnel cake with burnt honey ice cream was ideal for the season, but the coconut mango panna cotta wrapped in a kiwi ribbon was an unappetizing miss. No matter. The lavish dining room, overly accommodating staff, and generally magnificent food made us feel as fabulous as the restaurant itself.
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