Aurora's Closing Robs Dallas of a Gem,
But Luckily the Samuels Stay

Aurora 4216 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-528-9400

July 31st marks a quiet end to Aurora, one of Dallas' most acclaimed restaurants. The AAA Four Diamond restaurant will not be renewing its lease, as owners Avner and Celeste Samuels have decided to undertake a new venture. All of Aurora's accolades and awards accumulated over seven years could not save it from the down economy.

The French-influenced New American restaurant was the quintessence of sleek, elegant dining. With its inspired menu and impeccably clean flavors, Aurora became the darling of Dallas restaurants to those who had had the good fortune, both literally and figuratively, to eat there.Therein lays the bane of the restaurant. On our visit at the twilight hours of the restaurant's existence, our waiter presented us with an option of black truffles, freshly flown in from Europe. To say that dining at Aurora is expensive would be an understatement.

Chef Avner Samuels' dedication to quality and detail is nearly obsessive, but the result speaks for itself. The restaurant, while small, is dramatic and pristine. The beauty of the open kitchen evokes awe and inspiration. As our waiter, Eric Lauderdale, fervently insists, both Avner and Celeste personally maintained the high standards of the restaurant through a hands-on approach, "Chef Avner is not one to hand off the cooking and kitchen duties to someone else and just leave. He is in that kitchen almost every single day. And she [Celeste] is in the restaurant every single day, as well."

While such high standards are expensive to maintain, it would be unfair not to mention the strides Aurora took to keeping its restaurant experience affordable. Along with being a mainstay participant in the annual KRLD Restaurant Week, Aurora offered an $18.95 three-course lunch on Monday through Friday.

Along with economic factors, one must wonder if the influx of gigantic fine-dining celebrity restaurants has played a role in the demise of one of Dallas' true gems. Regardless, Chef Avner and Celeste Samuels are moving on and are already in the process of looking at locations for their next restaurant. The concept of their next project will be along the lines of a moderately priced European bistro. For this, Dallas should be grateful. It would be a shame to lose altogether one of the finest talents and restaurant teams the city has to offer.

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