Words Can't Do Auriga Justice

If I told you that Auriga is thoroughly congenial! charming! and very, very nice!, would you read any further?

All the entrées I had at Auriga were nearly perfect. The sliced grilled sirloin with prunes, chestnuts, and grappa, served with those lovely french fries ($17.25), was wonderful, and proof that you don't need a 24-ounce portion of beef to get that vivid steak flavor. Vegetarian entrées like the lusciously simple pumpkin-and-ricotta ravioli ($13.50) served on wilted spinach and topped with a lacey net of fried leeks are a perfect example of how understated preparation can make individual flavors sing: These ravioli were exceptionally light, sweet, and fine. The haddock mentioned above was melt-in-your-mouth perfect, the edges crisp as though they had been fried, the interior as tender as custard. Fish specials change nightly, and with the careful attention that each and every plate gets, Auriga is quickly turning into one of the best fish restaurants in town.

My only disappointments at Auriga had to do with the bread basket, which could be warmer and better, and with the number of items it serves flavored with Guinness: The Guinness-flavored baked beans under a perfect piece of sautéed salmon were too hard and undercooked one night, and I think the slightly sour Guinness ice cream that accompanies the flourless chocolate torte is more weird than tasty, though I overheard another table exclaiming about how much they loved it. Desserts, though few, have impressed me. I particularly liked the southern apple pie ($5), a tender pie crust packed to the gills with apples and served next to an absolutely delectable scoop of green-apple sorbet. The flourless chocolate torte ($5.50) fits any chocolate lover's criteria: It's made with a fine grade of chocolate, comes in a giant wedge, and melds with a cup of Auriga's fine, thick java to create that knee-weakening chocolate high we're always chasing.

Auriga's bar is making it particularly beloved to its neighbors: Not only are the wine and beer lists impressive and wide-ranging, but the space is entirely pretty, and it serves drinks 'til 1 a.m. Food is often served that late too, though the bar has been known to close early when no one's there. In fact, if Auriga gets the liquor license it's applying for (and summer ever comes to allow use of the outdoor patio), Lowry Hill might finally get the non-Liquor Lyle's hot spot it so deserves.

But maybe that wouldn't be such a good thing after all. Then they'd all be happy in the same way, and they'd be deadly, deadly dull.

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