A Moveable Feast—Chef Amaury at 33 West

December 2011/January 2012 View more

Photos by Greg Shapps

It probably happened hundreds of times over the years.

NMAG1211_TableForTwo_2Locals who had experienced the inspired creations and personalized service of Chef Amaury Rosado would pass along the recommendation or invitation to out-of-town friends and family. “Fine dining in Aurora?” they would think incredulously, as if the very concept were prohibited by city ordinance. Skeptical but intrigued, they would nevertheless make the journey, the lure of a great meal proving too much to resist.

Upon arriving in the parking lot of Chef Amaury’s Epicurean Affair, however, the skepticism would return almost reflexively as they surveyed the scene—a small, indistinguishable storefront in a strip mall, with a dry cleaner a few doors down and an industrial postal facility across the street. Fine dining in Aurora, indeed (cue sarcastic rolling of the eyes). Once inside, of course, the defenses and sense of self-satisfaction at presumably nailing the stereotype would slowly come down, as the Chef’s enthusiasm for his calling revealed itself throughout the evening in both cuisine and attitude. With hesitations transformed into hosannas, the newcomers would look around one last time before pulling away with ample respect but one vexing thought: “What’s he doing here?”

Change of Scenery

Well aware of this conundrum and anxious to showcase his cooking in a more refined setting, Rosado set his sights on the suddenly re-emerging downtown of Aurora, ultimately deciding in August of 2010 to simply repurpose the comfortable space where he had recently been running an Italian operation—exit Trattoria 33, enter Chef Amaury at 33 West. Still an intimate affair (though, alas, without that hint of salaciousness in the actual name on the sign anymore), the new surroundings give the creative culinary endeavors a more worthy backdrop. Gone is the specter of anonymous suburban malaise and the imposing shadow of the Fox Valley Mall (not to mention the jokes about Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the DMV), replaced by a handsomely decorated room just steps from the Fox River.

NMAG1211_TableForTwo_3Yet in terms of what really counts—the chef’s commitment to dishes that are as fresh in conception as they are in execution—things are very much as they were during the Affair on Commons Drive, with a commitment to contemporary American fare and an emphasis on organic and locally-sourced ingredients. The popular five-course prix fixe tasting menu remains alongside a new nightly selection of ala carte dishes, and dinner service has been expanded to five nights a week (Wednesday through Sunday).

The Song Remains the Same:
Hail to the Chef

In general, however, the notion of anything really “staying the same” is a fairly fluid proposition at Chef Amaury anyway, as evidenced by Rosado’s inspired seasonal whims and ever-changing menu. On the warm Thursday night in October when we visited, the meal started with sweet potato soup—a terrifically rich and velvety take on an autumn classic. When it came time to select our entrees, our server Bret explained that the chefs were particularly excited about a shipment of California figs that had recently come in, and the kitchen certainly did right by these little beauties in nestling them alongside my impossibly tender Alaskan halibut (not to mention the single roasted version NMAG1211_TableForTwo_4with a dollop of ice cream they whipped up as a between-course amuse-bouche). Our dessert selections, meanwhile, were a combination of both the old and new—a delicious Venezuelan bittersweet chocolate molten cake that had made the journey from the strip mall days, and a brand-new Concord grape tart with peanut butter ice cream, otherwise known as the classiest PB&J sandwich on the planet.

Despite the new surroundings, our evening was capped with a variation on yet another welcome holdover from the old place—a long, casual tableside conversation with Rosado himself. Hearing his enthusiasm about the food and the space and even the weather was a reminder that despite the upgrade from those strip mall days, the physical surroundings were never what Chef Amaury’s was about—it was, and continues to be, the spirit of its namesake that defines the experience.

Chef Amaury at 33 West
33 West New York Street, Aurora