The following are summaries of recent Times restaurant reviews.
Aurora Ristorante, 1341 S. Euclid St., Fullerton. (714) 738-0272. Open for lunch Monday through Friday, dinner Monday through Saturday.
Aurora Ristorante looks as if it belongs in another age, with its tuxedoed waiters, a dimly pink ambiance and classic preparations too rich for the blood of the '80s. Chef-owner Leo Holczer has a taste for the traditional but he tempers it with such exotic specials as alligator, buffalo and wild game birds. Pastas are rich and creamy, and there is a wonderful wine list with a wealth of vintage Italian reds. The music gets to be a bit much, though, particularly when a live organist is straining to be heard over a pianist playing for a private party in an adjoining banquet room.
Bistango, 19100 Von Karman Ave., Irvine. (714) 752-5222. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Bistango is a visually stunning new restaurant with an open kitchen, high-tech lines and the feel of a contemporary art museum. The kitchen has potential, but service is inexperienced and the management seems more concerned with appearance than with maintaining a standard. Outstanding appetizers include duck sausage with polenta, carpaccio of veal and beef and Maryland crab cakes with pink grapefruit and mache lettuce. Pastas also highlight this Italianate menu, created by executive chef Eugenio Martignago, a veteran of the restaurant wars on Los Angeles' Westside. Desserts are nearly as stunning as the surroundings. Don't leave without trying the three-chocolate terrine. When Bistango matures, look for greatness.
The Bouzy Rouge Cafe, 3110 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach. (714) 673-3440. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Newport Beach's trend-setting restaurant and wine bar has a new menu featuring tapas, Spanish appetizers designed to tickle the palate and stimulate a powerful thirst at the bar. Owner Tony Hermann, in a bid to infuse his eclectic European kitchen with fresh blood, has taken an interesting gamble in the process, creating dishes that are at once complex and original. But the gamble fails: Tapas belong on the bar, not in the kitchen. One is better off sticking to Bouzy's old favorites, and its delicious wine list. It's still a delightful place, but forget those tapas.
Mr. Stox, 1105 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim. (714) 634-2994. Open for dinner every day and lunch Monday through Friday.
Mr. Stox is not the name of a new board game about insider trading. It's a restaurant, and a very accomplished one at that. The design is ordinarily plush, but the menu is full of surprises; pureed black bean soup with a fresh pepper salsa, mesquite-grilled duck salad with a sesame oil vinaigrette and a sumptuously carved lamb rack, basted with fresh rosemary grown in one of the restaurant's back gardens. If you have a healthy expense account, you can indulge in one of America's most celebrated wine lists, which features a wide selection of great Bordeauxs and Burgundies. Semi-dressy, and surprisingly consistent.
The Pavilion, 690 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach. (714) 760-4920. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Hotel restaurants often are below standard, but the Pavilion is a cut above. Chef Esther Carpenter is innovative and adventurous, and her menu is filled with imagination. Especially good are a luxurious lobster and prosciutto sandwich served at lunch and a dinner-time veal chop, a deliciously heavy creation stuffed with Roquefort cheese and blanketed with a pecan sauce. There is a special spa menu for those conscious of fitness, and the selection is wonderful. Don't miss the Japanese-style pasta with seafood, or the ethereally dressed salads. Surroundings are elegant, and the restaurant is priced to match.
South of Santa Fe, 777 S. Main St., Orange. (714) 972-9900. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
There's plenty of corn in this new southwestern spinoff from the good folks who run El Cholo and the Sonora Cafe. Service is sprightly, decor is cheerfully bizarre and the menu is filled with things that your Mexican grandmother never dreamed of: confetti jicama salad, duck tamales and tequila ice cream. The concept fails when the kitchen tries to get too creative for its own good, so you'd better stick to old standbys, such as El Cholo combinations, and new standbys, such as the superb fajitas. If you must have innovation, though, there are fine chilis stuffed with goat cheese, an excellent swordfish in a tomato salsa and interesting desserts.