The highlight of my $25 three-course lunch at Aureole in Manhattan on Thursday was a starter of Yellowfin Tuna Tartare with Jicama, Bonito Cream, Cucumber and Purple Basil.
By VICTOR E. SASSON
I've never met a farmed salmon fillet that packed the flavor and vibrant color of the wild-caught original.
So, you can imagine my disappointment at the pale-looking, artificially colored salmon I was served on Thursday, one of the three courses on the $25 Restaurant Week menu at Aureole in midtown Manhattan.
You'd expect more at a restaurant with the reputation of Aureole, which was fully booked for the bargain lunch on Thursday.
I was able to walk in and sit at a bar stool with a hard-leather seat, but there wasn't enough legroom to get as close as I wanted to the place setting and my food.
I counted the bar stools -- there were 13 -- and that didn't augur well.
At least I enjoyed the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare starter, especially the pleasantly tart Bonito Cream and the contrast of the tender cubes of raw fish with crunchy jicama and cucumber.
With my main course, I liked the Herbed Couscous with Pomegranate seeds, but didn't touch a Citrus Hollandaise designed to give the bland salmon fillet some punch.
And the dessert, Vanilla Roasted Pineapple with Mango Lime Sorbet, was tasty, but I needed a knife to cut the fruit.
Aureole serves a small wooden bowl holding three kinds of bread, and on request, extra-virgin olive oil for dipping.
All in all, a filling meal, and you can't beat the price.
Poached Salmon with Pomegranate Herbed Couscous (hold the Citrus Hollandaise, below). I wanted the farmed salmon medium rare, so the bartender said he'd ask the kitchen to grill the fillet. But it was served poached and medium.
Vanilla Roasted Pineapple with Coconut Macaroon and Mango Lime Sorbet.
Before lunch service started, the bartender cut lemons, above, and two servers methodically folded napkins, below.
Aureole is at 135 W. 42nd St., between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, Manhattan; 1-212-319-1660. Web site: 'Progressive American Cuisine'
Lunches are a better value. If you pay for your meal with a registered American Express card, you will get a $5 statement credit (up to four times), and that covers a 20% tip at lunch.
Web site: $25 lunch in Manhattan