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Aura offers good vibes


Aura Restaurant and Lounge is located at 12851 University Ave., Clive — the former home of Trostel’s Dish, which closed in April 2020.

When a popular restaurant closes and a new one opens in its place, there’s bound to be comparisons to the previous location. 

Aura Restaurant and Lounge opened in the old Trostel’s Dish location in Clive in March 2021. As Trostel’s was known for its popular tapas menu, Aura also offers a sharing tapas menu. Yet, there’s no need for comparison, as Aura got it right all on its own.

Walking in the strip mall, the classy ambience sets the scene. Music piped in gives it a swanky big-city feel, yet the music is low enough to have a conversation without straining to hear your dinner partner.

The décor includes high-end suede bar stools, large comfortable booths and floral light fixtures. Above the booths are large pieces of burlwood lining the wall. Twinkling lights and ambient bar lighting are reflected on the black bar top, giving it a festive atmosphere. With only two televisions at the bar, it’s a refreshing change from a sports bar environment.

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Check out the patio in the back of the place. With a large seating area, you’ve got Iowa weather options, where you can choose from shade, sun or under an umbrella. Sturdy gray patio chairs offer stability, as opposed to those plastic cracked seats you find at some patios.

On your way back from the patio, check out the unique artwork in the hallway. It’s art by Aura Operations Manager Michelle Booth, who says her artwork “ended up by accident” in the hallway.

Aura Owner Jay Wang — of the popular Des Moines-area Wasabi restaurants — was inspired by eateries in Las Vegas, which lends to the sophisticated look and feel of Aura.

On to the food and drink. As I hit happy hour, it was a good deal. From 3 to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays — and even on Saturdays — there are numerous drink choices, many of which are nearly half-price from the regular menu.

A honey vodka Collins includes Revelton honey vodka, lemon and soda for $6; regularly $12. A select menu of happy hour drinks includes beer starting at $3 or well drinks for $5. Select wine runs from $5 to $10. 

Honey Vodka Collins includes Revelton honey vodka, lemon, simple syrup and club soda. Happy hour runs from 3-5:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Happy hour is a chance for you to try some of their tapas for a couple bucks off the regular price. The crispy Brussels sprouts made with honey, lemon vinaigrette and grated Parmesan is a tasty way to get your daily veggie intake. Happy hour price was just $6. Korean BBQ chicken tacos are a unique combination of pickled onions and crispy wontons.

With 20 different tapas offered, you can easily share with your friends, including a short rib ravioli, tempura shrimp or lamb lollipops. A flat bread-inspired Iowa lavash includes beef tips, arugula, caramelized onion and bacon jam with a crisp cracker crust for $17. 

Aura offers a few family-style boards, which serve up to four people. A butcher board includes tri-tip, wild mushroom, red wine demi and roasted garlic. The menu changes frequently, offering new dishes for both the regular and the happy hour menu.

Aura is a relaxing vibe. It’s great for leisurely conversations over a bottle — or two — of wine or a hand-crafted cocktail. If you’re looking for a date night or an online date meetup, this place offers great food, drink selections and different seating options. 

A lighted neon sign at the entrance offers up Aura’s motto: “Good Vibes Only.” A new place in old digs is right on par — or even better — than the old place. ♦

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