Edible Works of Art: Aubergine at L'Auberge Carmel
7th Avenue Monte Verde St
Carmel-By-The-Sea, California 93921
Average cost: $$$$
Parking: valet parking, but Carmel By the Sea is a gem, so we stayed in one of the many options nearby and loved being able to walk over and explore all that Carmel has to offer on foot
Notes: current outdoor dining is in their beautiful courtyard (tented with heat lamps)
Recommended: put this one on your NorCal Michelin Star bucket list to make your edible art dreams come true! An intimate dining experience that is elaborately gorgeous, thoughtfully deliberate and delicious dining at its finest.
This sumptuous multi-course meal that was a veritable feast for the senses began with some gifts from the chef: Morro Bay Oysters with caviar and a corn-based sauce, and Japanese Ayu (sweetfish) tempura. (Disclaimer: I did my best to take notes on the ingredients, but with masks, sound was muffled so it's possible that I misheard some.)
The first official course was some exceptionally tender abalone poached in butter on top of a tasty chawanmushi (savory steamed egg custard), paired with pea shoots, peas and puffed quinoa for texture:
The next course was a super flavorful North Sea cod drenched in an incredible shiro-dashi butter sauce and served with some spring onion wrapped mushrooms and topped with pretty African daisy petals. This dish was accompanied by house-made brioche rolls baked in abalone shell, and I really can't think of anything better to dip into that incredible butter sauce. This dish was impeccable and Tim's favorite of the evening!
The lobster in Donabe clay bowl with watermelon radish and risotto was probably my favorite course, although it's definitely hard to pick just one favorite course. We were lucky enough to be served by Exec Chef Justin Cogley (different tables had different chefs for this particular course), and when I think about our brief conversation, it still makes me laugh.
Me (in awe after chef explained what the dish was): "Wow, and it smells awesome."
Tim: (amused silence)
I mean...just look at the way the watermelon radish was cut. No detail too small for this masterpiece!
The next main course was an amazing rack of lamb with morels, swimming in a yummy caper berry chicken apple sauce and sprinkled with some beautiful garnishes that were almost too pretty to eat. You know how lamb can taste kind of gamey? None of that here, not even a little bit - just pure deliciousness.
The second main course was perfectly cooked and expertly seasoned ribeye steak (sooo tender), paired with an emulsified yolk sauce with thinly sliced asparagus, pearl onions, and shiitake mushrooms, garnished with tiny blooms. This main course was accompanied by a hearty 6 hour bone broth in an adorable mini vase-like container and some tasty buckwheat acorn squash flour sourdough bread. After the brioche I had high expectations for additional bread and Aubergine definitely delivered!
Even the salted floral butter that was meant for the sourdough bread looked like a work of art:
The first dessert course was a refreshing palate cleanser and consisted of a deconstructed version of strawberry and rhubarb cheesecake, topped with strawberry foam and both dehydrated and fresh streusel. The dehydrated bits offered additional texture and complexity to this delightful dessert.
The second dessert course consisted of a deliciously decadent chocolate sphere of creamy chocolate contrasted with a honeycomb of devil's cake and pieces of dehydrated milk; these pieces had a satisfying snap to them. Together, it was almost like enjoying chocolate ice cream with bits of crunch mixed in.
Because we were celebrating, Aubergine gifted us a wonderful chocolate mousse and flourless cake covered in a gorgeous mirror glaze and gold flecks:
As this sensational multi-course meal came to an end, additional sweets accompanied our check: white chocolate topped with persimmon "bacon," tangerine jelly sugar crusted sweets, and some beautiful glazed dark chocolates.
Last but not least, we each got a delicious and buttery madeline that was conveniently packaged as a take-home gift:
This was an incredibly lovely experience, super easy to book via OpenTable, and the attention to detail and service was truly exceptional. Good bye for now and hope to see you again soon, Aubergine!