In Shanghai there are two types of Italian restaurants that really should be judged separately from each other. There are the ones with actual Europeans somewhere at the helm, which feature different primi and secondi piattis, huge wine lists and tend to leave you about 500RMB lighter (per person) at the end of the night. Then there are the ones not run by Europeans, with dishes that are just… different. Not to knock different, it’s the same way Chinese dishes in Italy taste different, even if they’re tasty. Aura is one of the latter.
Aura (which shoves its name into RestAURAnt – haha, get it?) is a new Italian joint, located right next to URBN on Jiaozhou Lu. It seems to have borrowed a little of the eco-hotel’s flair – the exterior features handsome dark wood and bamboo-shaded seating. The owners are the same people who run Coolzey, another not-European Italian joint with at least one cafe in the same general area.
Thankfully, Aura outshines Coolzey in basically everything, and at roughly the same price point. In fact, it’s almost like someone took a laundry list of the things that kind of sucked about Coolzey, called for a redo and named it Aura.
The antipasto platter
Service could actually be called friendly and attentive – even though the waiters have trouble with English, they are willing to try explaining things and they actually knew the items on the menu. They give bread at the start. Water comes right when you asked and nobody tries to charge you for it.
The food is a vast improvement too. Salads, including their signature Aura salad (35RMB) – which features beets! – were fresh and crisp. The Antipasto for two (60RMB) actually looked like an antipasto platter, with three different types of cheese, two types of prosciutto, salami and pickles.
For the main course, we ordered a prawns pasta (38RMB) that was filling, delicious and featured very plump and juicy prawns. We also had a 14-inch Mozzarella di bufala Pizza (72RMB), which had chunks of buffalo mozzarella sliced thin enough to melt adequately on its tomato sauce base, but not so thin that it charred. We wish we could say the dough had the same perfect proportions – unfortunately, like its Coolzey cousin, it was more of a cracker than a pizza base. In ten minutes, the sauce had sogged through, turning the pizza into a tomato and cheese flavored mush.
Desserts were actually better than some of the European-run Italian restaurants we’ve been to. Both the vanilla cheesecake (23RMB) and “sweet heart,” a potent chocolate cake with melted chocolate interior (22RMB), were beautifully plated. More importantly, they were delicious and did not taste, in any way, pre-made. We didn’t have the stomach space left to try their tiramisu, but the waiter assured us that it was worth coming back for.
And yes, we will be coming back. Especially since the bill worked out to less than 100RMB per person.
Aura, 171 Jiaozhou lu, near Xinzha lu. 胶州路171号进新闸路, Tel: ６２５３２７７９