A friend of mine wanted to celebrate her birthday at a nice place, WITH the kids. It wasn’t pretty. The diners moved tables, the waitress seemed pained, and the kids restless and loud. There aren’t a lot of white-cloth tables around town that know what to do with kids. Aura does, especially with its monthly Family Style nights.
We took the kid to last month’s Father’s Day Weekend night. Actually, our 6 year old is usually a pro at these spots. He’s relatively polite, curious, a little adventurous with food, and can summon his indoor voice when needed. But when we arrived, he spotted a part of the dining room that was cleared of tables, and he spotted toys. A TV playing “Bee Movie” next to a playhouse and an area for littler kids. And when I walked him over, he was in love: there was an unopened box of Legos, waiting to be assembled into a helicopter. See ya.
We ordered glasses of the house red, and placed our orders in peace. The kid choices were all bento boxes — a genius adaption of the Asian platter. Chef Klein knows that many kids hate food that touches each other, for one thing, and bento sections offer perfect kid-sized portions. Plus they just look fun. We ordered for the kid the organic roasted chicken, finger potatoes, and glazed carrots, with an organic chocolate chip cookie for dessert. Other choices were sweet and sour shrimp with noodles, and a turkey burger with sweet potato wedges. If we had a baby, there would have been organic pureed veggies available, too.
For us, we ordered the three-course meals: for me, I started with the corn chowder, with purple potato and chinease sausage with cilantro, which i could have had a bucket of, it was amazing. My honey had the roasted beet salad on baby spinach, spiced pecans, and honey yogurt viniagrette. For the entree, the skirt steak with potato puree dolloped with red wine glace, and a sweet corn and tomato succotash — all delicious, although served a little on the cold side — the chef later told me that they are breaking in a new kitchen. My guy chose the grilled salmon with a nice tamarind sauce, with curried quinoa and golden raisin salad and braised swiss chard.
Loved the olive oil cake with citrus compote, a grownup cake with almond ice cream topped with basil.
My son had a blast, and ate most of his food, too. The grownups had grownup time, but really, i love eating out with my son, and was happy to forego the babysitter. As for Chef Rachel Klein, she’s been working on this idea for a while now, she told us after the meal.
The mom of a “rambunctious 3 year old,” she said that cooking for kids requires “a different style — as different as apples and oranges.” But she’s also with servers who “know how to deal with kids—it’s all about the speed of service. The kids could eat and get out of the way.”
While Chef Klein has mulled a weekly “kids cafe,” she’s sticking to the limited monthly event for now. “I have seen more restaurants follow suit, especially in the South End,” she said. “It’s all trial and error; we keep trying to push the kids’ ethnic palates.” Ah, my kid usually goes for Japanese but did the easy chicken, I think because he didn’t want to have to use his energy for anything more than toys. But I get what she’s saying.
For the upcoming family-style BBQ this Friday, Aura’s moving the feast outdoors with a fancy BBQ that includes lamb ribs with Asian BBQ sauce, salmon in ginger soy sauce, and BBQ Cornish game hen with tamarind sauce. For the kids, it’s natural hot dogs, Black Angus hamburgers, and Mac and cheese, plus treats from an ice cream cart, cupcakes and cookies.
“July’s Fine Dining ‘Family Style’ will be a fun departure from our usual events inside Aura,” said Chef Klein. “The weather is so beautiful, all the families want to be outside enjoying the summer weather while we have it, and there is no greater place to catch a lovely breeze than on our outdoor Plaza level here at the Seaport Hotel. I’m looking forward to getting outside myself, and getting behind the grill to have some fun with all the families who come to enjoy Fine Dining ‘Family Style’ with us.”
Beginning at 5:30p.m., it’s $35 for adults, $20 kids — reservations can be made at 617.385.4300.