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AURA Restaurant entrance

AURA is a waterfront restaurant and patio located at the Inn at Laurel Point, just outside Victoria’s downtown core, where West coast Pacific Rim-inspired dishes are beautifully crafted by Executive Chef Takashi Ito.

AURA Restaurant gorgeous harbour view

The harbour views are magnificent, particularly at night. Reserving in advance allowed for a prime seat at the window, to enjoy the jewelled tones of the surrounding harbour lights.

AURA Restaurant interior

The ambiance here is casual yet feels formal enough to dress up for dinner. The music is toned down, with classical, jazz, and lounge styles flowing through the room, allowing for conversation to be heard. The illuminated bar (showing a Canucks game on the TV screen the night of my visit) is home to a buddha.

AURA Restaurant buddha at bar

Staff are very accommodating and the service is paced as to enjoy a bit of space between courses. I chose the deep amber Blue Buck out of a selection of Victoria microbrews on tap ($5/glass): Driftwood Brewing Fat Tug IPA, Lighthouse Brewing Race Rocks Amber Ale, Swan’s Oatmeal Stout, Hoyne’s Pilsner, and Phillips’ Blue Buck Ale. There’s also Merridale Cider available as well as international red and white wines by the glass or bottle.

Chef Ito chooses Ocean Wise-sanctioned seafood in all his dishes, as well as using seasonal and local ingredients on the breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner menus.

A freshly baked brioche was brought to the table with a small dish of homemade browned apple/thyme butter, the perfect complement for sipping the ale.

AURA/Fried sushi platter

As a starter, I ordered the Fried Sushi platter: a colourfully-presented dish of side stripe shrimp, scallop, seared tuna, and tobiko caviar on deep-fried sushi rice. Two soy sauce injector sticks were on hand to season at will.

The fried sushi is divine on its own; combined with the seared tuna, it was just gorgeous on the palate. The side stripe shrimp’s texture is luxuriously matched with the scallop and caviar dollops on the grey slate square.

I could smell the freshness of the BC seafood as it was set on the table in front of me. Between sips of Blue Buck, I also enjoyed the crunchy structure of the nori and rice.

AURA/Steelhead

Steelhead is served pan-seared with a couple of edamame bean and potato croquettes, surrounded by seasonal vegetables atop a stroke of corn purée. I found the vegetables cooked just right, and not overdone. The veggies were Patty Pan zucchini, kale, golden and purple beets, and carrots. All very good together with the delicate, flaky locally-caught trout.

AURA’s dessert sheet is also loaded with some gorgeous combinations: cocoa nib and maple blondie with Phillips Chocolate Porter Stout ice cream and malt powder crunch, warm apple and peanut butter galette served with cinnamon ice cream and caramel sauce, and my choice, the Carmelia Valrohna chocolate bar ($11). A big thumbs-up to Pastry Chef April Iverson for both flavours and presentation.

AURA/Carmelia Valrohna Chocolate Bar: Salted caramel ice cream, chocolate ring with gold leaf accent, chocolate pop rock crunch

This beautiful vanilla cream-filled chocolate bar arrived with chocolate pop rock crunch atop salted caramel ice cream, and a dark chocolate ring decorated with gold leaf. A couple of small mounds of dried berry powder added a bit of tang to the dish. Together with an Americano, this was a delightful way to end a leisurely meal by the water’s edge.

Artisan cheese plates served with spiced nuts, jams, chutney and inn-dried fruit bread are also part of AURA’s dessert menu.

AURA Restaurant is located at the Inn at Laurel Point, 680 Montreal Street in Victoria.

My dinner was compliments of AURA and the Inn at Laurel Point.

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