We visited Aubergine one year ago but currently California does not permit indoor dining. Luckily Carmel has great weather for this change and the L’Auberge Hotel has a beautiful courtyard to move the restaurant guests to. The polished wood tables are well spaced from each other and set with placemats and large linen napkins. The patio has a brick floor, lots of plants and is punctuated with various lighting sources and heat lamps. It is a lovely place to sit in the lighted hours as well as after the sun sets. Various benches and chairs on the perimeter are used by people who ordered a separate drink from the bar. All staff wore masks and were extraordinarily welcoming (as are all the staff at the hotel), especially Chef Justin Cogley who served some of the courses and visited with guests. They now offer just one tasting menu to all and wine pairings are available. You can view the wine list on your smart phone with the link provided. Portion control was good and pacing was leisurely but never lagged. It started quicker and then slowed slightly. It still has one Michelin star but I see this place moving to 2 stars soon. Put it on your list of places to go.
The tasting started with a series of “gifts from the coast.” First was an anchovy, spinach and artichoke tart with honey comb bee pollen, The honey comb added a bit of crunch to the smooth purée inside the crisp short crust. It was a delicious bite.
Morro Bay oysters were topped with sea grapes and caviar in a seaweed cream. It was a wonderful oyster that left the most divine flavor in your mouth. It was creamy with delicious caviar – a great combination of flavors.
The last ‘gift’ was a tempura fried squash blossom that was stuffed with lobster. It was served with a dipping sauce of sous-vide egg yolk with chicken broth and chives. The light crisp batter was well stuffed with sweet lobster and perfect in the dipping sauce or eaten alone. It was amazing.
The second course was ‘flavors of summer’ and included tomatoes, cucumber with smoked trout roe, raspberry, zucchini and cucamelon all in a cultured cream sauce. The zucchini strip was curled around a green tomato jam that had a hint of ginger. A plate of really fresh tastes that were all different and good.
Red Abalone was on a custard of smoked ham and liver and seasoned with black lime. This one was yummy. The smooth custard was the perfect mix for the chewy abalone. A bit of seaweed added more flavors to this excellent dish.
Afterwards they brought some fresh baked brioche in another abalone shell. It had been brushed with sea lettuce brown butter. They were soft and tender and properly rich.
Black cod was served with shiro dashi butter sauce and fava beans. The sauce was made from the fish bones and white soy sauce and the whole thing was dusted with garlic chives. The buttery fish was as delicate as the perfectly cooked fava beans. Here I was glad to have the brioche to catch any remaining sauce.
Rohan duck breast from New York was served with a peach filled with duck jam and covered with shaved cashews. The duck was excellent – a perfect pink with a very crispy skin and minimal fat layer. The tasty duck jam was out of the world in the flavorful peach. Such strong flavors but perfectly matched. This was a wonderful course.
The next course was beef ribeye with corn and black garlic. The first part was a small carafe of the bone broth mixed with some Maitake mushroom and Kombu. It was well flavored with the mushrooms being the strongest of the flavors. The ribeye itself was triple seared on rock salt. It was cooked a nice rare, a little smokey and was very tender, from the middle portion of the ribeye rather than the cap meat. Alongside was a corn pudding topped with truffles in a boat shaped husk. The pudding was excellent and the mushrooms and truffles blended well. With the beef came a different bread, this time a sourdough made with heirloom wheat. It was served with a butter from Petaluma that held some parsley and tarragon oil and topped with dried flowers. The bread had a nice crust with a very doughy interior. The beef was good but not as good as the duck.
The first dessert was a baked meringue topped with summer berries and lemon curd. Some juice from the strawberries added extra flavor as did geranium petals. It was sweet and sticky good. The fruit was excellent – full of flavor and the tart lemon worked to moderate the meringue sweetness.
Crunchy chocolate choux was next served alongside chocolate cake and whipped dulce ganache stacked into a cyclinder. It had lots of textures and all the parts were good. The chocolate choux was a flourless chocolate cake that ended up being a bit bland after all the intense flavors of the evening, but who cared at that point.
Lastly there was a tray of small sweet treats including white peach jelly, bitter sweet bonbons and canelés. All good.
Then, in case you get hungry that night they sent us off with a bar of white chocolate. I asked for a copy of this evening’s menu which they nicely gave to me.