Aurora has one of the best lunch specials going in town, where you can have a 2 course set for $188, a 3 course set for $268, or a 4 course set for $388. In my opinion, anyone with an appetite needs to go for the 4 course set, or else you won’t get enough to eat. Not that it’s any kind of feast or anything, but it’s probably just enough to get the job done.
The 4 course set is made up of one appetizer, one first course, one second course, and one dessert. Appetizer selections are mostly fish (smoked salmon, roasted veal with tuna sauce, mackerel) while the first course is a type of pasta (ravioli, fettuccine, spaghetti, or risotto). Halibut, cod, veal and lamb are your second (main) course selections while desserts include a lot of ice creams along with some sorbet and tiramisu.
The menu has changed a bit since I was there in July of 2013 so use the pictures shown here just for reference. As you can see, the portion sizes aren’t huge but the food is presented quite nicely and I thought each dish was good.
The lamb, in particular, stuck out – I only wished there was more of it – while the seafood spaghetti was another stellar choice that was absolutely perfect.
Desserts were also exceptionally good, and I wish I could have climbed into that scoop of vanilla ice cream and just stayed there forever!
My overwhelming memory of Aurora wasn’t just of the food though, but of the total experience. It was a beautiful July day and I strolled in with a book I’d just bought from the Macau Museum, Austin Coates wonderful history of Macau written in the 1970’s – A Macau Narrative.
I sat down by one of the windows facing the Macau skyline and dove into first pages, by that time accompanied by a tremendous glass of Italian white recommended by the sommelier, Chimera Trebbian. ( Which is UNBELIEVABLE….)
And as I sat there reading Austin Coates fluent easy prose, I learned about how the city I love came to be, how magnificent it must have been in its early opulent days, and the history behind places like Lilau Square, Camoes Park, and the Protestant Cemetery. These are some of my favourite places in the city and reading about them while the sun shone in through the windows while the waitress brought the next course and another glass of wine was just an exceptional feeling.
While part of it was the wine and the book, another part of it was Aurora, and just being there that particular day. Smartly decorated, the restaurant is open and bright, and the waitress was just excellent. She gave great recommendations for the food and let me go at my own pace, and of course, she brought another glass of great wine and another and another and on it continued in that way. It was one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had in Macau.
In the end, I guess I’m giving Aurora 4.5 stars and not 5 for two reasons. One, while the food is very good, it’s not drop dead amazing amazing amazing, and outside of the lunch special, it’s probably a bit overpriced.
Beyond that the restaurant is beautiful, the food is good to great, the lunch special is excellent and the staff is wonderful. Aurora is definitely the best restaurant at Altira and quite possibly the best Italian restaurant in the city. Don’t pass up trying the Chimera Trebbian either, as it’s a remarkable white wine.
As a big fan of Aurora, I’ve returned quite a few times throughout the years for their magnificent set lunch, which ranks as one of the best value options in town. Here’s a quick review of my latest visit, which happened in the autumn of 2017.
Dining with the lovely Layla Huang, we both had their 4 course set, which ran $418 apiece, not including tax and service charges. FYI, there was also a 3 course option available composed of 1 soup or appetizer, 1 main and 1 dessert for $338.
Since the set menu changes seasonally, you won’t be able to order the exact same things we did, but the food will certainly be of similar quality, because it always is.
The Sweet Corn Soup was as good as a soup can get, flush with flavour and harmony. Absolute brilliance, it was Michelin star level and the perfect way to start a meal.
The Trout Tartar was another standout dish, packing just the right amount of zest, sprite and panache. Unexpectedly complex, the trout taste was still evident, the finish long and wonderful in the mouth. Much like the corn soup, we didn’t think it could have been prepared any better.
The only slip up occurred next, with Layla’s Shrimp Pasta. This one didn’t pass the mustard, relish, ketchup or whatever condiment you want to use. Cavatelli is a thick enough pasta as it is, and to cover it in a strong heavy sauce is just asking for trouble. Replace the shrimp with huge beef meatballs and we may be getting somewhere, but as it was, this dish crapped out in the kitchen.
It was just mouthful after mouthful of the same thick pasta and sauce taste with zero variety, the shrimp adding next to nothing as well. In fact, the shrimp didn’t seem particularly fresh either, the first and only time I’ve ever experienced that at Aurora.
And then, just as there is no darkness without light, my pasta, which was also shrimp based, got our meal right back on track. Despite the fact that it looks like mush prepared for a two year old child with four teeth, it was out of this world, brimming with balance and taste. Paired with small super interesting balls of rice, it’s pasta that you might be able to get only in Asia, and one good reason I’ve lived here for 15 years, and will never go!
As for the 24 hour Slow Cooked Short Ribs, my general policy is …. sign me up for anything that’s been slow cooked for a day or more! Needless to say, it was more mouth magic, the cut of meat dripping in taste.
The Angus Strip Loin didn’t quite reach those heights, but for a set meal, it was a perfectly fine steak, with pleasing texture and finish.
Desserts were all pleasant and enjoyable enough, although nothing to the level of a Cafe Bon Bon of course, because nothing ever is.
Four scrumptious courses for $450 in a stellar restaurant with exemplary service is nothing to sneeze at. The food is basically Michelin quality and if Aurora manages to grab a star soon, I wouldn’t be surprised. We’ll give them a mulligan for the one pasta – everything else was sublime.