Cabbage served with charred leeks, onion essence and alpine cheese.
It’s not every day that a restaurant as ambitious and high-end as Auburn opens in Los Angeles. After all, our city has become exhibit A in the movement toward more eclectic, global dining without all the frills. So it’s fair to say that all eyes are on this new tasting-menu restaurant headed by Eric Bost, a classically trained chef who’s worked everywhere from République to Guy Savoy and Alain Ducasse.
What’s especially unique about Auburn is the menu format. Diners can choose four, six or nine courses from a menu of 12 seasonal items. It’s a culinary version of a Choose Your Own Adventure novel; one wishes other Michelin-starred meals offered—there’s all too often at least one course that doesn’t appeal to personal tastes. At Auburn, if you’re really into funky Époisses de Bourgogne cheese, there’s nothing to stop you from doubling down and ordering two of your courses as such. (You should definitely order at least order one. It’s worth it.)
Auburn’s bar area was designed by Maša and Jon Kleinhample of the Klein Agency.
The ever-changing menu is pretty incredible, but one thing you definitely need to try—aside from the aforementioned cheese course, especially if you’re just grabbing a drink and bite at the bar—is the fresh-baked boule with avocado butter. It’s an elevated European twist on avocado toast that beautifully showcases Bost’s knowledge of bread baking.
Be sure to snag a front-row seat to watch the deft kitchen staff in action, not just because of their skill set, but because the galley itself is downright gorgeous. There’s an oversize hearth burning and dual French top lines. The best way to get a view of it all is from the four-tops inside the exposed kitchen area, as well as two-tops on the outdoor area of the patio closest to it. There isn’t really a bad seat in the house, though, as that attention to detail extends out into the dining room and bar, designed by Maša and Jon Kleinhample of the Klein Agency.
The Ume cocktail is made with umeshu, apricot, citrus cordial and seltzer.
The restaurant, formerly home to Citrus and more recently Hatfield’s, has received a complete makeover, opting for a more minimalist, modern vibe that has major Japanese and Nordic tones. White oak furniture and plenty of plant life warm up limestone and blackened steel, giving it the feeling of an urban oasis. There’s also a massive square skylight that opens up to the night air, lending an alfresco feeling.
That sophistication carries on through the menu too. It’s worth splurging on the $15 supplement for the 30-day-aged ribeye with morel mushrooms, kombu and Australian black truffles, as well as the courses that highlight local produce, like the cabbage served with charred leeks, onion essence and alpine cheese.
The restaurant’s entrance on Melrose Avenue
Wine pairings, which range from funky French selections like a late harvest Champagne dessert wine to cabernet from the Finger Lakes, are also worth opting for. But if spirits are more your style, be sure to sample one of the cocktails from the team behind the bar program, Matthew Belanger and Lauren Corriveau in collaboration with Auburn’s bar manager, Israel Mejia. A particularly delicious one is the Ume, essentially a spritz utilizing Japanese flavors like umeshu (dried plum), apricot, citrus cordial and seltzer.
Even if you get carried away on cocktails (or that Époisses order), make sure to save room for some of Dyan Ng’s globally inspired desserts, which are perfectly balanced and feature unique ingredients like rose water, mushroom caramel (a wonderful umami-rich version of the classic) and fermented plum. Like the rest of the restaurant, she pushes boundaries in all the right ways.
An after-dinner offering of herb chips with caramelized coconut
6703 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323.486.6703
Cocktails, $14-$19; four courses, $85, wine pairing $50/$80 (reserve); six courses, $115, wine pairing $70/$100; nine courses, $160, wine pairing $90/$120
Photography by: Nicole Franzen