A quick Aubergine and La Balena (Carmel) report
My husband and I recently relocated from Southern CA to Carmel, yippee! My dad came to visit over the weekend and we had a celebratory dinner at Aubergine on Friday night. The last time we had dinner here was about a year ago. Since the beginning of the year, they've changed to offering a fixed 4 course (as opposed to a 4 course with choices) or a full tasting. They’re still offering the once a month Terroir dinners with wine pairings which are an excellent value. Cheese is offered as a supplement on the 4 course and the evening we were there, there was also an option to supplement with wagyu in lieu of ribeye. We opted for the 4 course with the ribeye and were comped some sparkling Reisling to welcome us to Carmel.
We started with shots of something very pleasant. Sorry, we were so busy yakking that many of the descriptions will be skimpy. Please rely on the photos ;) Next came “a gift from the Pacific” – oysters with caviar and oyster gelee. Small bites of kampachi with passionfruit and raw milk with trout caviar followed. The first course was Dungeness crab and bibb lettuce with strawberry vinegar. Course two was Maine lobster with napa cabbage and oyster emulsion. Bread service in between courses consisted of cheese and olive oil/sesame brioches. Course three was grilled ribeye with green tea and 7 herbs. We chose to add one plate of cheese which was comprised of 7 selections with accompaniments and was plenty for 3 people to share. A refreshing sorrel sorbet palate cleanser followed and the dessert course was a milk chocolate mousse with banana ice cream and peanut butter. Some mignardises concluded the meal along with gift of chocolate sables and passionfruit macarons to go. Each time we dine at Aubergine, we’re always pleasantly surprised by the flavor combinations and I think they’ve stepped up the service since last year.
Dinner last night was at La Balena, another one of our favorites. We sat on the back patio with our dogs. The place was pretty packed early in the evening. We started with a shared soup of potato croquette and asparagus in pork broth. Mains were whole roasted sea bass with pesto, halibut and Dungeness crab ravioli and wild boar and pancetta pappardelle. All of the pasta here is house made and I haven’t tried one I didn’t like. Fresh ingredients, well prepared, casual and unpretentious is how I would describe this place. My only slight criticism is that occasionally the service can feel a bit harried. The owner is usually present at dinner service to help take orders and serve. I actually find it charming. It’s the opposite of slick.
When we have no visitors, eating consists of shoveling prepared food down our mouths as quickly as possible so that we can get back to unpacking and remodeling. Luckily we have a full schedule of visitors through the end of April ;)
Has anyone been to Marinus or Sierra Mar recently? Eventually, when we have some time, I’d like to try both. Any CHers going to Gourmet Fest or Pebble Food and Wine?