I had dinner with a friend at Aurora Bistro one Friday night. The friend was late, but this is not unusual for her. She always arrives surprised to find how late she is and bursting with stories of the heavy traffic, the obscure location, the impossibility of parking.
This time she was 45 minutes’ late. In some restaurants it would feel awkward to sit alone at a table for that long, but here it was OK.
Aurora is in what might be considered an edgy neighbourhood, at 2420 Main Street, Vancouver. Once you’re inside, though, it is warm and welcoming. The candles on the tables are reflected in the large windows; their reflection is superimposed on the view of the darkening, traffic-filled street outside. I ordered the Aurora martini, made with gin, Elephant Island apricot wine, and something sparkling. I found a stack of vintage cookbooks at the bar. They probably came from Pulp Fiction, the used bookstore next door. I picked out a cookbook published in 1949. The time passed comfortably and suddenly my friend arrived expressing amazement at the traffic, the difficulty of parking, etc.
A deconstructed Waldorf salad (shredded celeriac topped with a miniature apple panna cotta), some exquisitely garnished, velvety sablefish, and a postmodern squash tart tatin later, we left in a haze of wellbeing. The staff are attentive but not fussy; they describe the complex dishes with enthusiasm but without pretension, and they treat customers like smart people who share their interest in and knowledge about their food.