Aubergine in Newport
- Kit H.
Has anyone eaten at Aubergine? We have thoroughly enjoyed Troquet (their other restaurant in South Coast Plaza) and so we thought we would try Aubergine. I was FAXED a sample menu (prix fixe) and found that many of the selections were not to our taste. Has anyone had a pleasant experience there?
When I made a reservation at Aubergine they were kind enough to fax me a sample menu. It's prix fixe for $75 pp or $90 if you want the tasting menu. The choices were pretty good. This is a group of 4 women women, three of whom pay for the fourth whose birthday we are celebrating. We figured it would cost each of us at least $150 (what with wine, tax & tip) and one of our party didn't care for most of the entrees and wasn't willing to pay that much for something she didn't like so I'm afraid we won't be going. We like their sister restaurant, Troquet (So. Coast Plaza), and may return.
re: Kit H.
I have another suggestion for you. There is a wonderful tea at the Sherman Gardens in Corona del Mar, if weekday afternoon is an option for you. IMO it's even worth taking the afternoon off. It is on one of the patios in the garden, and is a cross between a Japanese and traditional English tea. There are only about half a dozen tables, so reservations are essential. The chef does everything herself, and is the dessert chef at Pascal. The food and the experience is outstanding. The first course is generous sushi-sized tastes of about five different main-course type things. Two that come to mind are a round of chicken sausage topped with garlic mashed potatoes, and a delicious omelet (served like tamago, but not as sweet) with edamame in the center. The next course was called scones, but was more like flavored shortbreads, with berries and cream. The last course was an incredible dessert plate, with 5 or 6 different delights. Each course was truly almost too beautiful to eat; my friend and I were sorry we hadn't brought a camera. A different tea is served with each course. It would be perfect for a birthday, not too eclectic a menu for the unadventurous among you, and won't set you back $150. I think it's around $30-40 per person.
There really are not that many great restaurants in Orange County, even though the people who live there think their crap does not stink.....head about 20-25 minutes north to Long Beach and you can find truly outstanding restaurants with good service (not attitude) and reasonable prices...I live in OC and can make these comments though I know my crap stinks..I'm one of the rare honest ones.
We ate at Aubergine with an 8:30 reservation this past Saturday night. We were seated in the smaller front room (four tables), near a table which included a drunken lout of a California legislator, his wife, and another couple, who seemed determined to chug as much wine as possible. This did not improve the experience. 8;)
To sum it up, the food was fabulously prepared -- no doubt, the best quality of our trip. This is one of those few restaurants in which I -- a somewhat picky eater -- will eat anything which is placed in front of me, even if it's something I normally don't eat (akin to Chez Panisse, Inn at Little Washington, Blue Ginger, etc.) However, the meal was marred by poor service:
1. We were seated and given the wine list, but not menus. We had to ask for menus when our waiter appeared about five minutes after we were seated.
2.The waiter smashed a water glass while picking up the wine list from our table.
3. Very slow wine service -- our white wine arrived after an amuse bouch and our first course were served. Since the first course was very slow in coming, and the second course is fish, we had to order a second half-bottle of the white (an outstanding Sancerre, so not much of a disaster). The white wine vintage presented also differed from the wine list.
4. Midway through the first course, a waiter seemed nonplussed when he asked if we wanted more bread, only to be told that we had not thus far received any bread or butter at all.
3. Our red wine was not opened immediately to breath as requested, and was then presented to us after the meat course was served.
The only faults I would ascribe to the food concern portion size and the cheese course. I felt the portions for the $75 five-course meal were not sufficient (that night the $90 tasing menu did not look particularly attractive, and it is only offered if everyone at the table has it.) Instead of a cheese tray, you must choose one of three particular cheese-centric dishes, which each feature only one cheese, and a very small piece, at that. When you still have more than half a full bottle of Turley zin left, this is not good.
The wine list is also somewhat overpriced compared to other restaurants at this level. California wines are overpriced even in comparison to top east coast restaurants.
To sum it up, we had better overall dinners last week at Pinot Provence, Five Feet, (both of which were superb), and even a mobbed French 75. Along with Aubergine, The Cellar was an excellent meal, but somewhat disappointing in some respects.
We might return to Aubergine, but it would certainly not be on a Saturday night, and probably not Friday either.
We have been to Aubergine four or five times.
I would suggest that if it interests you, you do it all the way. That would be getting there wildly hungry on weekday at the earliest reservation you can make (recall that it's 6:00 pm), ordering the full tasting menu, and the wine tasting as well. I would also suggest a nice long walk before you trying squeezing yourself behind the steering wheel for your sober journey home. These people are doing excellent work on a high creative level. On Friday and Saturday nights, they are simply so overwhelmed by demand that their performance suffers. Arriving at such an early hour on an off day not only marks you as someone serious about food, but lets you watch the rhythm of the restaurant as it wakens and braces for the evening service. This is the real thing.
The worst experience we ever had at a restaurant was at Aubergine. We had reserved a private room for my brother's 50th birthday. We arrived at the time of our reservation (8:30) to discover that the people from the early seating were still in the room. We were told to wait at the bar--only four barstools for 12 people. The hostess said she would move the other people on to the patio and we would be seated in about 15 minutes. At 9:00 we were still waiting. The hostess said it would only be five more minutes. At 9:30 we looked into the room again so see that the waiters were just beginning to serve dessert. Although I had reserved a private room, picked out a menu, arranged flowers, we ended up leaving at 9:40 after arranging with another restaurant to accomodate us. The other party was still in our room when we left. To add insult to injury, I received a $250 charge on my next AMEX bill from Aubergine--a no show charge! AMEX politely reversed the charge.