August 20, 2001 | Ask Gael
I used to love Aureole . . . will I still?

         Curb that rampant neophilia and come back to Aureole. Almost two years ago, chef-patron Charlie Palmer brought on Gerry Hayden as his second. Slowly, Palmer let Hayden infiltrate the menu. And this week he crowned him executive chef. Citrus-marinated fluke with Ruby Red grapefruit and piquillo peppers is pure Hayden and a triumph. He revives the lively soba-noodle salad laced with yellowfin sashimi that I loved at Marguery Grill. Amazingly tender rock shrimp sit on a hill of avocado in a sea of gazpacho beside an oval of cumin foam you may or may not want to stir into a fabulous soup. Sirloin in a splendid duet with wine-braised short ribs or truffle-crusted salmon (meticulously rare as asked) or chicken both moist and crackling with morels and potato gnocchi might follow on the $69 dinner. Luscious asparagus risotto can't quite save the overcooked halibut in its silly asparagus-sabayon blanket. Aureole's original pastry chef, Hayden says he will focus on deconstructing desserts and making them more American. For now, the fruit-and-sorbet plate with a slice of Mom's Jell-O mold is a refreshing climax.

Aureole 34 East 61st Street, 212 319 1660

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