Being firmly of the view that to stave off jet lag you should stay up as late as possible, we booked ourselves in for dinner on our first night at Aubergine (at the Relais & Chateaux hotel, L’Auberge Carmel). Having heard great things about this restaurant, I was very excited for my first taste of gourmet Californian cuisine and this was definitely worth fighting through the sleepiness for!
The menu here focuses on local seasonal ingredients and appeared to us to take a fair amount of influence from Japanese cooking. The results being nine courses of fresh, subtle and well-balanced flavours, all presented in a beautiful minimalist style.
The highlights for me were…
Melt-in-the-mouth kanpachi with a vibrantly coloured but delicate sauce made from the fish’s bones and borage.
Kalamansi sorbet with a passionfruit jelly and aniseed and sugar tuile which was so full of flavour I was sad when it ended!
And the Aubergine take on a Lemon Meringue Pie.
I should also mention the Monterey Bay red abalone (served in a delicious broth with artichoke, hijiki and tosaka). Abalone is by no stretch among my favourite of shellfish but this was the most tender and flavourful I think I have ever had, beating even the best of the establishments in Japan which I have visited so far.
In retrospect, our meal at Aubergine Carmel was possibly the best we had while away. I would love to come back and sample another of Justin Cogley’s inventive menus.