Aubergine has re-done the dining room since we were there in 2019 (in 2020 we were there but it was during the pandemic and we ate outside) and it looks even better. It has fewer tables but they’ve added some upstairs and dining outside is a regular option for the 5 nights a week they are open. Chef Justin Cogley runs the kitchen with skillful pastry chef Yulanda Santos to offer an ever-changing 8-course tasting menu. (There was an optional Japanese A5 wagyu supplement that night which we took). A huge wine cellar supplements the meal as does the full bar. They have maintained the Michelin Star they earned in 2019. Music is in the background and artistic fish swim around the walls for the 5 tables in the dining room. Gone are the dark beams above but they’ve added a cabinet for glassware and burled wood center fixture topped with candles and flowers. The staff are all friendly and ready to help with any requests. Chefs bring out some of the plates and explain them. It was a wonderful dining experience and I recommend it to anyone who can get there.
Gifts from the coast was a tray of small bites in a beautiful arrangement. The flowers and stones provided a stunning holder for some terrific blasts of flavor and texture. A squash tart was filled with Japanese A5 Wagyu tartar mixed with mayo. It was excellent with tons of flavor.
A Sweetwater oyster from San Francisco was poached and then topped with lardo.
Bluefin tuna was filled with Kaluga caviar and topped with sweet soy and white seaweed. It’s silky texture was perfect with the caviar and the crisp seaweed added a bit of crunch to the yummy bite.
A broccoli tartlet was topped with grated egg yolk and was mild in flavor but great in texture.
Another tartlet was filled with abalone custard mixed with chicken skin and seaweed and then topped with sliced abalone. The ultra-thin crust was soooo delicate and lovely with the smooth and silky fillings. Mildly flavored this was a delight in your mouth.
Next was a bundle of local baby lettuces and white asparagus shavings. Alongside was a dish of Kaluga Queen caviar on top of allium cream. You were to spoon out some cream and caviar and eat with each bite of lettuce. A scrumptious combo. This was a perfect dressing for the lettuce as it allowed the fine flavor of the caviar to come through with a refreshing underbite. They brought a moist towel to wipe your hands afterward but mine seemed to have no residue!
A Hokkaido scallop was alongside a shrimp-filled squash blossom in a bouillabaisse broth made with tomato, saffron and smoked fish and then oil infused. It made a lovely picture and equally lovely taste. The broth was a particular star with a fabulous depth of flavor.
Shiro dashi with a kohlrabi roulade and chanterelle mushroom were topped with smoked Steelhead roe and surrounded by a white soy and butter emulsion. Some sherry vinegar and pickled red bell peppers were in there somewhere too, but it was hard to get it all down. It came with a housemade brioche for us to share and use to soak up all of the sauce. The solid parts were quite good but I have to admit the brioche was the star for me with or without the fine sauce. It was buttery and flakey and perfectly cooked. Just divine.
Liberty Farms Duck was presented a couple of ways, with ume honey and apricot. Duck confit was in a fried wrapper topped with apricot alongside a frisee salad with black plums. Some roast duck was sliced and served with a gastrique of apricot, cashew and honey. You didn’t need the sauce on this perfect piece of rare, crisped skin, flavorful duck but it was perfect for the confit roll. The salad added a good component to the mix for a nicely balanced course with wonderful flavors and textures.
A knife with a burled handle, like the room centerpiece readied us for the next course. The dry-aged ribeye was with a blue corn, smoked tomato tart and our supplemental A-5 wagyu cooked over juniper. Lastly, they brought some housemade sourdough rolls and butter. The ribeye was Nebraska beef that had been aged 32 days. It had a nice beef flavor but couldn’t hold a candle to the tender beef butter that is Japanese A-5. Its flavor just explodes in your mouth with rich beefiness. The tart and rolls were both fine but the Wagyu stole the show.
The first dessert was white chocolate, brown rice tuille, lemon curd, elderberry flower sorbet and strawberry sorbet. Berries and cream on steroids. Wonderful flavors and smooth textures punctuated by tasty crispy bits made for an excellent summer dessert.
Chocolate brownie, passion fruit, almonds, and coconut ice cream made up the second dessert. The topping was almond purée and an edible chocolate leaf was a decoration. Bittersweet chocolate ganache covered the brownie for a chocolate lover fix.
The last treats were (clockwise from 12:00) almond financier cakes, white chocolate with puffed rice, madeleines with raspberry sauce, and passion fruit jellies. The little almond cakes were rich, buttery and delicious – my favorite. The chocolates were fun with the crispy bits of rice while I didn’t care for the raspberry on the madeleines, but that is my feeling about many raspberry desserts. The jellies were sweet and tart at the same time.
A parting gift was a chocolate bar filled with dark chocolate, raspberries, pistachios, marshmallows, walnuts and on and on. It looked fun and it was nice.