There is a BIG difference between eating dinner and enjoying a dining experience. I have spent the majority of my life eating dinner. But not tonight!
We just had an exceptional dining experience at Aura Restaurant, located at The Inn At Laurel Point In Victoria.
Every night around 6:00 my family sits down to eat dinner. It’s the one meal we can pretty much count on every day where we are all together.
I tend to think of myself as a fairly good cook. I enjoy being in the kitchen creating healthy, balanced meals for all. A little of this. A little of that. Sometimes for up to 2 hours, but usually closer to 30 minutes. It takes time to make a good dinner and while I’m making it, I’m hoping they will all enjoy this particular concoction.
We sit at 6:00 and by 6:20 we’re clearing away the dishes. TWENTY MINUTES! It’s a wonder we don’t all get indigestion each night from eating so fast.
I’ve heard of cultures who savour the family meal. Where they sit and dine for an hour or even more, enjoying their company and their mouthfuls. Jay and I got a glimpse of this recently when we ate at Aura Restaurant.
After spending the afternoon along Victoria’s harbour, enjoying the market-style shopping, we checked into our hotel, The Inn At Laurel Point.
We arrived at Aura Restaurant for our 5:30 reservation and chose a table on the outdoor patio. The evening was calm and soothing, not too cold, not too hot. Just perfect.
Let me say right here and now that I learned something that night.
There is a great difference between eating dinner and enjoying a dining experience. I have spent the majority of my life eating dinner.
Enjoying a dining experience started the moment we sat down, looking out at the inner harbour and being offered a light blanket to help keep us cozy. Our experience at Aura Restaurant continued as our server described tantalizing items on the menu.
It continued as we were offered hors d’oeuvres that I can only liken to pieces of artwork…fresh, local tomato, basil and prosciutto with olive oil and vinegar drizzle . Not only was it beautiful, it was also decadent.
We also ordered an appetizer to share…dashi poached side stripe shrimp, shimeji mushroom and white soy sauce, avocado puree, pickled zucchini and tobiko garnish…otherwise known as the Risotto. It was fantastic. Never before have I had creamy rice that’s also a bit crunchy and hot all the way through without being mushy.
Whenever I eat out I try and order something that a. I don’t normally get to eat because my family doesn’t like it and b. I can’t make myself. “A” is usually pretty easy for me, but when I order something I don’t think I can make myself, I spend my time trying to figure how to make it when I get home.
Usually by the end of the meal I think I can do it and come home with the inspiration to give it a try. At Aura Restaurant, however, I didn’t stand a chance.
Jay surprised me by saying “I think I’ll have the duck.”
Are you kidding me?!
DUCK? I can’t recreate duck.
One bite and Jay had found his new favourite meat.
I have a few food allergies so ordering at restaurants can be a bit tricky for me. I was delightedly surprised at how well the chef was able to accommodate me. I simply told our server and she made sure everything I ate would work.
As I was eating my entree, I quickly learned that there would be no way I could recreate this at home. The vegetables were cooked, yet perfectly crunchy and piping hot. How do they DO that? The sauces used enhanced all the natural flavours of the meat, they didn’t mask it. And the fresh, local ingredients sure made a difference.
It was simply wonderful.
Our dining experience continued throughout. We watched boats enter and exit the inner harbour and as the sun slowly descended we enjoyed seeing the light dance on the buildings. People came and went around us as time seemed to stand still. Jay and I were enwrapped in this leisurely meal.
We visited with our server, Suzanne and our host, Robin, but most importantly we enjoyed each other. With no where to run off to, nothing else in our schedule, we just sat, ate, and experienced.
We could have stayed longer, but wanted to watch the sun set from our room in the hotel. As we said goodbye, I was surprised to see that we had been dining for 3 hours.
I was so content and satisfied.
The meal left me full, but not stuffed.
My tastebuds were happy.
Suzanne said it had something to do with how my pallet had been fully awakened by the abundance of differing flavours and spices. Though she may be right, I think it had more to do with the experience of the night in its entirety.
Since we stayed in the hotel, we also enjoyed the Aura Restaurant for breakfast the next day. One word: fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Okay, that’s 3-4 words.
But seriously, it’s incredible.
With 6 oranges in every glass, I felt like I was literally drinking an orange.
And I’m pretty sure I ate the best omelet of my life: local goat cheese, free range eggs, asparagus, mushrooms and spinach.
Though it may not be what you would choose for your omelet, it was perfect for me and if I close my eyes, I can still taste it. Please excuse me a moment while I go to my happy place.