We love staying in Carmel-By-The-Sea on weekdays when it is a bit quieter and especially on rainy days. The town looks quite quaint and the ocean is rougher and even more beautiful. We had heard that the cuisine at Aubergine which is in the classic L’Auberge Carmel Hotel was exceptional and decided that we had to see for ourselves. The intimate and stylish restaurant has only twelve tables and is accentuated with whimsical art. We were surprised to hear that they would be updating the décor as it was already quite lovely but expect that the changes will enhance the elegant restaurant. The staff is well dressed which adds to the sense of style as did the light music by Nora Jones and Michael Buble in the background.
We were seated near the window and started with cocktails which are served in large martini glasses. We loved both the Black Cherry Cocktail made with Effen Black Cherry Vodka, lime and cranberry and their signature L’Auberge Cocktail made with vanilla vodka, Chambord and pineapple.
Executive Chef Justin Cogley is known for creating sophisticated modern California cuisine using locally sourced, artisan, luxury and highly seasonal ingredients. Diners are presented with two tasting menu choices. The Four Course Dinner has options in each course and the Spontaneous Chef’s Tasting Menu, which is only offered for your entire table, is designed using twenty ultra-seasonal ingredients. A Sommelier’s Wine Pairing is an option for both.
We opted for the Four Course Dinner so we could experience more tastes. Sparkling water and house made breads soon arrived and we were ready for our first course. No surprise, we were wowed from the start as the presentation combined with complexity of the ingredients and flavors were exceptional! We loved both the Roasted Apple with chestnuts, geoduck and charred onion and the Mousse of White Corn with mussel frost, fried mussel and basil. The second course which was Monterey Bay Abalone with umeboshi, red seaweed and Alba mushrooms was amazing as was the Japanese Kanpachi with sauce from the bones infused with lemongrass. We were pleased to be offered a small taste of Risotto with White Truffles which was a treat. The main courses were also outstanding. The Maine Lobster with emulsion of galangal, turmeric and chamomile was excellent as was the Rib Eye with yellow beet, tonka bean and black garlic. Next, we enjoyed the Artisan Cheese Plate with Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese, French Goat and Cow cheese and White Cheddar served with apple butter, wildflower honey and pureed apricot and house made toast. You’ll be happy that you added this optional course.
The Desserts which were works of art are all made by Executive Pastry Chef Ron Mendoza who had previously worked at The French Laundry in Yountville. We loved both the Chai Carrot Cake made with cream cheese and white chocolate and the Chocolate Cremeux made with pear, pine ice cream and praline.
Aubergine is also serious about wine. Wine is served in the appropriate Schott Zwiesel stemware and they are known for their 4500 bottle underground Wine Cellar. During our early courses we enjoyed the 2011 Alto Adige Italian Cantina Terlan Classico blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc which was lively and the 2010 Domaine Champalou French Loire Chenin Blanc Vouray which was crisp and steely. The full bodied 2008 Fink Family Les Jumelles Pinot Noir from the Monterey County Santa Lucia Highlands paired perfectly with our main courses.
Aubergine offers Sweet & Savory Cooking Classes each month in their kitchen http://www.laubergecarmel.com/culinaryclasses.html. December’s classes include Holiday Secrets from a Restaurant Kitchen with Executive Chef Justin Cogley and The Whole Citrus class with Executive Pastry Chef Ron Mendoza. They also offer special dinners throughout the year including holiday dinners and you can actually pre order Holiday dinners to go as well.
By Carol & Joe Davis
Monte Verde at Seventh
Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA. 93921
Reservations are highly suggested.