Aroha: the Foodiest Restaurant in Town

Aroha dining patioCourtesy of Aroha Restaurant

Aroha New Zealand Cuisine and Bar has been in the little cluster of restaurants at the corner of Lindero Canyon Road and Russell Ranch Road since 2014, but I’ll bet you haven’t even noticed it*. The restaurant is tucked away behind Cici’s (pancakes) and Barone’s (Italian), across from Lure (seafood) near the Marriott Residence Inn. Aroha just put in an awesome outdoor bar, though, so this summer if you drive by on your way to Target or In & Out, you’ll likely see a bunch of people on their patio for happy hour and wonder what the heck you’re missing.

The answer is you’re missing the fanciest, tastiest, most exotic dishes I’ve seen on any menu in the surrounding area so far.

Aroha crab cakesOur starter: Lump Crab Cakes
with spiced avocado mousse and a micro licorice salad

The atmosphere at Aroha is fairly chill. The dining room and patio are inviting and comfortable, tastefully appointed with Crate & Barrel-esque minimalist furniture, but not precious. The waitstaff are friendly and knowledgeable about the menu without making you feel inferior for never having tried lamb or venison, or not knowing what horopito is. (It’s an herb.)

And then you see the menu.

Aroha New Zealand beer

We started with a New Zealand beer and a fancy-sounding cocktail that was supposed to turn pink when you squeeze the lime into and mix it in.

Then since I had to have the most “New Zealand-y” dish on the menu, I chose the venison.

Aroha venisonAward Winning Horopito Crusted New Zealand Venison:
pan roasted with sweet potato, cherry compote, pistachio, and vanilla-parsnip purée

I had never tried venison before, but like I always say, I’ll do it for my readers. You’re welcome. The chef recommends his venison be served medium-rare, so I rolled with that. I took care to put a little bit of each item on my plate into a forkful, and tasted. The result made me feel like Remy in Ratatouille describing the combination of flavors exploding in your mouth.

Aroha salmon

My husband had the salmon. He said “It was awfully good.” Normally he would stop there, but when I pressed him for more words, he shared that he enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere juxtaposed against the sophisticated dishes. The pricing on the menu items makes Aroha an indulgence, a dinner we would splurge on for a special occasion. Just being there made it a special occasion.

Which meant we had to have dessert.

Aroha Pavlova

Aroha Pavlova closeupThe Pavlova

The Pavlova is the national dessert of New Zealand, so naturally we had to order that. At Aroha (which means “love”) it arrives as three fluffy pillows of sweet meringue surrounded by fresh kiwi and strawberries, topped with passion fruit seeds and flowers. It tastes like homemade marshmallow. Sweet and exotic. I paired it with a super sweet dessert cocktail, Harold’s Hata, which tastes like a coconut White Russian. Tasty, but it’s all you need for dessert and you should NOT drive home after drinking it.

Aroha’s young chef Gwithyen Thomas is a New Zealand native who moved to our area for love. His wife and baby son were at the restaurant on the night we dined there, and his enthusiasm and love of food and what he does shined through in our conversations. He told us about how the deer and salmon were raised, flown here, and prepared, and how his kitchen and dining room staff have the same love of food that he does.

And it shows. Check out Aroha for happy hour or a full meal. It will be an experience, I promise you that.

Aroha New Zealand Cuisine and Bar
30990 Russell Ranch Road.
Westlake Village, CA 91362
(805) 405-5054

(*If you have, please share in the comments – I’d love to know if you dined there and what you thought!)

My husband and I dined as guests of Aroha. All opinions are our own.

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