What kind of art gallery has giant televisions showing the NBA playoffs? Aura is one of those self-consciously hip spots that tries to be a lot of things to a lot of people. And speaking of self-conscious, on the relatively early Friday night we went, it mostly seemed to be filled with nicely-dressed guys trying to impress nicely-dressed girls on still-awkward first dates.
Which is maybe a bit of what I was thinking myself taking Joy there on her birthday. But luckily we’re past all that, being together awhile and more than a decade older than most of the daters. If I had any complaint about Aura’s mojo as a date spot, it’s that our table was so broad that Joy quickly moved over to my side of the booth so we could actually hear each other talk. We picked the side facing away from the NBA finals.
We decided early on to not eat “the way we eat at home.” In that spirit, we started out with an appetizer that consisted of duck wrapped in bacon, with a tangy mango salsa. Now, duck is basically the bacon of the bird world already, dripping in enough fat to keep you buoyant in water. These were sort of like little bacon eggrolls, pleasantly crisp on the outside.
We followed that with the Aura Chop ($8.50), which might sound like a Tai Chi move but is actually one of those California-style salads, with several types of greens, along with dried cranberries, walnuts, avocado and pear. It was quite refreshing. Think a fancier version of what you might make at Jack’s Urban Eats, with better presentation.
The highlight of the meal was a filet ($20), the kind of thing we never, ever eat at home. It was marinated on the outside with cocoa, which gave it a very interesting, dark flavor, crisp on the outside and juicy and red on the inside. I’ve never tasted anything quite like it—and no, the caffeine didn’t keep me up. This was served on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables. So even if those other couples didn’t have much to talk about (and the one couple we could see most of the time from our table was definitely having a hard time keeping a conversation going) at least the food was really good.
For a place that advertises as a date spot and also shows sports, Aura also shows quite a bit of art. Maybe it’s a ploy to get on the Second Saturday map, but they do sponsor an artist of the month promotion.
Aura Restaurant, Lounge and Art Gallery
2724 J Street, Suite A
Tuesday through Saturday 4 pm to 2am
Monday 4pm to 9pm