115 S Front Street
910 763 7773
The atmosphere at Aubriana's is great. Exposed brick walls, dark and cozy, white tablecloths, small and intimate space, candles, tables in the windows...a great dining experience. (The ladies room is equally elegant.) But the atmosphere is nothing if the food isn't good. Fortunately, Aubriana's pulls off both well.
At first glance, the menu and the wine selection seem a little limited. It makes sense, though, the more you think about it. If what you offer is high quality, you don't need an enormous variety. And it certainly makes better business sense to not have thirty different kinds of wine available by the glass when your restaurant has about 15 tables. It's a better experience for the diner as well. You know the wine you're getting is going to be fresh, and not from a bottle that's been sitting there open for weeks. As for the food, the chef can concentrate his efforts on perfecting each dish rather than developing a cafeteria-sized menu of offerings.
I'd say the chef at Aubriana's has just about perfected what he cooks, too. I ordered the house salad with the roasted tomato and bacon dressing. The greens were feather-light, and dressed perfectly. The dressing had a nice, smokey flavor that was well-balanced with tart vinegar. My only complaint at all was that the tomato was obviously just garnish - it was on the side and mealy and tasteless. Tomato this time of year is just iffy - even the ones I've gotten down at the Farmer's Market aren't that great. It's just past time for them. I'd have preferred them not present at all on the plate. Phillip had the Caesar salad, which was also excellent. The croutons were slightly stale, but still tasted good, and the dressing was excellent, the greens crisp, and of course it came with anchovies, which it should.
Phillip ordered the Sunburst Mahi, which was a cashew crusted mahi with a citrus mashed potato and a mango/vanilla sauce beautifully decorating the plate. The potatoes were a surprising flavor that was actually delicious and complimented the fish perfectly. The sauce was more than just a decoration. It was bursting with flavor and really made the fish sing, so to speak.
I ordered the veal chop saltimbocca. It was a very generous portion of tender, well-seasoned veal, wrapped in proscuitto and topped with good-quality mozarella. The pan sauce was salty perfection, and the asparagus was tender-crisp and delicious, not just there for a token something green. (Which is often what my vegetables wind up being.) Our waiter selected a nice red that had some juicy berry flavors that went with the dinner "just right".
Ordinarily, I don't order dessert, but dinner was so good, I wasn't ready to stop eating. And the desserts are all made in-house. How could I refuse? Double chocolate peanut butter pie for me, thanks. Oh, my! The crust was chocolate wafer, filled with a rich not-too-sweet peanut butter creamy filling, topped with a chocolate ganache. I ate way too much of it and am going to have to double up my workouts for a week to pay for that, but it was worth it.
Service was attentive without being obsequious. He was knowledgeable about the food and wine, pleasant but unintrusive.
As is typical of Wilmington, the clientele ran the gamut, from slightly dressed up older folks like us, to a group of young people in T-shirts and jeans. What I'm saying is, don't fret about having to get your tiara out to eat here. Like everyplace else in town, it's upscale, but user-friendly.
Update 11/25/09: Here is Liz Biro's review from the Star-News. (She rocks)