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Review Recap: Aureole

Today, Sam Sifton dumps a single star on Aureole. Make no mistake about it: this is a pan, even though there are many dishes he likes—especially in the more casual front room:

Mr. Palmer is a big-business restaurateur, a best seller, the Dean Koontz of the sauté and oven set. It wasn’t always so. In 1988, he was just a brash young chef who had cooked at the River Café, who struck out on his own to open a creamy, luxurious town house restaurant, Aureole, on the Upper East Side. The food was American, audacious, often excellent and expensive despite a sour economy. It was New York to its core…

Times change. In 2007, Mr. Palmer announced plans to move the restaurant south, into bigger digs. The result is a Las Vegas event restaurant airlifted into Manhattan, a corporate cafeteria with a soundtrack of smooth jazz in the George Benson style. The food can be quite good. It can also be the opposite.

Aureole, as the New York expression goes, is meh.

Sifton confuses matters by assigning one rating to both the upfront bar–café and the $84 prix fixe dining room. For the former, one star is a compliment; for the latter, it’s a curse.

There was no Review Preview yesterday, as Sifton didn’t tweet in advance what he would be reviewing. It is just as well, as we would have been wrong again. We would have predicted two stars for Aureole. It will be interesting to see what happens next to Chef Chris Lee. He was turning out acclaimed food at Gilt. Now he is “meh.”

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