Happy Wanderer

Avner Samuel gets the creative juices flowing with Aurora

Still, richness dominates. Beef tenderloin "Rossini style," drooling from a crown of pale gold foie gras parfait, sits in a pool of shallot red wine sauce. The foie gras infused the meat with an almost caramel-like richness that is tempered by acids in the sauce.

This blunting pattern is everywhere. Every assertive move is modulated by another, but not so much so that the expression is muffled. This dynamic drops the volume, yet the statements are actually clearer. Pan-seared turbot is a choir of moving whispers. Gently coated fish pieces behave like clouds in the mouth, floating over it instead of plunging through it. The meat arrives as a small tower in a pool of tomato-vanilla emulsion, the vanilla consorting with tomato acids to quietly draw out natural fish flavors.

Visuals stimulate with equal vigor. Aurora is little more than an imposing kitchen, which hovers over the dining room like a surreal throne. It flickers with tracts of polished stainless steel striped with rows of copper saucepots hung from hooks. Samuel behaves like an admiral in his black frock, leaning on his palms on the counter in front of him, scanning the dining room through the 9-foot wall of floor-to-ceiling etched glass that separates the kitchen from the dining room as his crew works through an intuitive choreography behind him. He is at ease, with none of his legendary explosiveness apparent. On occasion he huddles with servers, turns to direct his chefs or pauses to taste a sauce. Like the plates, the room is rich--walls mossed in ultrasuede or veneered in exotic wood, chairs crisply nipped in dark leather--but clean.

We'd show Aurora's inside, but chef Avner Samuel wouldn't let our photographer in.
Peter Calvin
We'd show Aurora's inside, but chef Avner Samuel wouldn't let our photographer in.

Location Info

Map

Aurora Maison de Cuisine

4216 Oak Lawn Ave.
Dallas, TX 75219-2312

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Uptown & Oak Lawn

Details

Oysters with salmon roe and caviar $16
Lobster soup $12
Garden salad with beets $12
Lamb rib and saddle $39
Pan-seared turbot $32
Beef tenderloin Rossini $39

This same compelling aesthetic stain seeps onto the plate again and again. The bouquet garden salad is an eye-popping still life with a sheaf of billowing leaves in various green shades loosely tethered. In another quadrant rest tiny beets, white and red, next to a shallot. All bathe in vanilla bean-red wine vinaigrette.

This is the kind of work that a long wake of seemingly errant restaurant stints inseminates, demonstrating that discipline dominates Samuel's craft. Where in the past his work could be inconsistent and disappointing (Ethniko, Bibendum and Bistro A as it wound down), here he never slips into a riot of "fusion" anarchy. Aurora is a dazzling recalibration of the influences and techniques that have always dominated Samuel's cooking. There's no need to travel to a precious tasting list in Chicago or a three-star specter in Paris. As long as Samuel is cooking like this, you can save your frequent-flier miles and hotel points for big game hunts or flashy poker tournaments.

4216 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-528-9400. Open 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday. $$$$

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