Before I begin with a review/photo tour/whatever this post will end up being, I'll just say that I filtered through over a hundred photos to choose the seemingly best-looking pictures to represent the experience. If you plan on coming here to take some pics here (as I'm sure you will if you're not a frequent visitor, since you'll probably be thinking of coming for a special occasion of some sort), just note that the lighting isn't exactly the best for photo-taking, so you'll need a still hand to take good pictures.
This place is fancy.
So fancy that if you come in wearing a short-sleeved dress shirt, you'll get stared at for being under dressed.
So fancy that dropping $100 per person on a dinner will seem almost perfectly fine, even if you make less than that a day.
So fancy that you'll feel like using eloquent and descriptive words to describe each and every dish that you have sampled in order to feel like a rich, spoiled, pretentious food snob.
But I'll try to refrain from the latter, because that's not really my style.
You can feel the level of class even before entering the dining establishment. And by dining establishment, I mean restaurant. Restaurant doesn't seem like an appropriate word to use here since it doesn't feel like one. Maybe a banquet hall would be a better description, but it isn't exactly that either, so I'll just call it a dining establishment.
There were quite a few people here already when my friends and I arrived at 7:30 pm. We stayed until relatively late, and as the last diners of the night we were able to see the restaurant as it is without people in it. So don't be thrown off by the lack of people in the photos.
Yeah. Fancy, right? And I haven't even posted any of the food pictures yet.
The service here is what you would expect from a place like this. So it goes to say that you should expect better service than you would at a family restaurant, but given the price range, atmosphere, and class, I'd say it's about average.
As you can see from the photos above, the atmosphere and decor make this place pretty great for a romantic evening. It's also perfectly suitable for business lunches/dinners. I wasn't kidding about being under-dressed in a short-sleeved dress shirt bit, but as far as I know there isn't really a dress code here (but really, you might get stared at by the other patrons, and maybe some of the wait staff as well, if you don't come in wearing some professional-looking attire).
My friends and I opted for the tasting menu. Note that the tasting menu costs $100 per person ($150 if accompanied by wine), and everyone at the table must get it. So if you come here wanting to try the tasting menu while the people you're with all want to order individual dishes, that isn't happening.
This was what was on the tasting menu for the evening. The menu changes once every quarter, so in any given year Auberge will offer four different tasting menus that vary with the season. They just changed it when we came here. If you opt for the wine pairings, your waiter will come along with a different bottle of wine with every dish. There's about a 15-30 minute downtime between each of the dishes so you'll have plenty of time to talk with your acquaintances and enjoy your food/wine slowly. Portion sizes for each of the tasting menu dishes aren't too big, but add it all together and you'll be full by the evening's end. A waiter comes around with a bread basket every so often, so if you don't feel full from your meal, just ask for some bread and you're good to go.
Their regular menu also changes every so often. I believe it's once every quarter as well, but it isn't changed along with the tasting menu. Our waiter told us that the regular menu would be changing soon.
They offer wine (as well as the tasting menu items) a la cart as well if you want to opt for that. They have juices too. I think the juice of the day was some kind of cranberry juice.
Our "menu gourmand," as they called it, began with a small canapé which, according to Wikipedia, is "a small, prepared and usually decorative food, held in the fingers and often eaten in one bite." Since ours was a pudding, it wasn't something we wanted to hold in our fingers.
Well, I guess you could hold the tempura piece between your fingers, but the pudding needs a spoon. It was a mushroom pudding made from a Japanese mushroom. I think it was Matsutake, but I could be wrong as I am not a fan of mushrooms so I wasn't paying too much attention to what the waitress said. One of my friends made a comment about it being rare and expensive though, so I think it's Matsutake.
Even though I don't like mushrooms, the taste here wasn't too overpowering. After a bite, you'll definitely know it has mushrooms in it, but for me it wasn't too bad. I actually kind of liked it (though the lingering bit of mushroom taste afterwards wasn't pleasant for me).
The leaf underneath the pudding is meant as a palate cleanser.
After the canapé came the Saumon Fumé.
Smoked wild salmon, horseradish panna cotta, salmon roe, marinated cucumber, and bagel crisps.
The presentation looks nice, but don't let that fool you into eating the pieces individually. I should have mentioned this in the beginning, but one thing I learned this evening was that after taking pictures and admiring the decorative beauty of your food, you should then proceed to take your spoon/fork, mash up everything together, then eat it.
If you don't, and you try the salmon roe by itself, your tongue will be in for a salty surprise. It's not pleasant.
The salmon by itself isn't that great either, and neither is the panna cotta. But when you mix it all together, it tastes pretty good.
The Courgette, pictured above, doesn't look like much. Taste-wise, it wasn't much either.
Zucchini and tempura of blossoms, chilled lobster salad, yuzu aioli, piment d'Espelette.
The lobster salad is wrapped with zucchini, and two pieces of tempura blossoms rested on top of the wrap. It wasn't something to write home about, but it wasn't bad - which is more than I can say about the next dish, OEuf.
"Egg" in French, but to make it sound fancy they capitalized both the O and the E.
Soft-poached farm egg, lonza, pickled garlic, braised romaine, back truffle-bacon jus.
My dish actually turned out visually better than some of the others. It looks almost like a rose.
But honestly, this dish made me want to vomit.
I think it's just me though. My friends seemed to really enjoy this dish.
I started off with the romaine lettuce. I decided to eat the stuff I anticipated tasting bad first, followed by what I thought would be great afterwards. I don't like cooked lettuce, but this was actually pretty good.
Unfortunately, the egg wasn't so good. In fact, I'm going to flat out say this nearly ruined the whole experience for me. I'm not sure what that is wrapped around the egg, but my friends say it's bacon, and that this is a fancy bacon and egg dish.
Something about the dish nearly triggered my gag reflexes. I'm not sure if it's the egg or the thing around it, but it was bad. I finished it anyway because it was a part of my $100 dinner.
Remember the point I made earlier about needing to mix your food here? That is especially the case with this one. I made the mistake in eating the veggies first, then saving the egg for last. Don't do that.
I had a little bit of lettuce left near the end, so after my friend reminded me to mix all of the food together, I did so. It tasted SO much better that it's ridiculous. I think the wait staff should make a note to inform patrons that some of their menu items have to be mixed for the flavours to all blend together in a nice medley, rather than painstakingly consuming each bit individually. The last bite wasn't enough to persuade me that this dish was good, but at least I didn't feel like throwing up during the wait time between the OEuf and the Rossini following it.
Cumbrae's 48 day aged rib eye, foie gras, pomme purée, sauce Périgourdine.
This was good. The veggies are just for decoration, but the meat was delicious.
The pomme purée is just mashed potatoes. Not a lot of it, but it was still pretty good.
The rib eye was nicely seasoned. It was a little tough in texture, but nothing too bad.
I've never had foie gras before, but this was good. It tasted like eating a piece of fat, which I normally don't like, but it had a meaty texture to it. "It feels like eating meat," as one friend of mine put it. Apparently it's commonly served as a pâté.
For this, you can eat each piece by itself and it'll taste great. Eat the rib eye with the foie gras and perhaps a bit of the mashed potatoes together though, and I'm sure it'll taste even better.
Before dessert, we were served a special celery/apple/pear/something salad that wasn't on the menu.
Maybe it was another canapé or something. One friend called it another palette cleanser before dessert.
This wasn't too bad. The celery didn't seem like it'd go well with the fruits, but it was surprisingly refreshing. I enjoyed it. It felt like an appetizer dessert before the main course dessert.
With the dessert, you're offered one of two options: Bleu D'Auvergne or Chocolat Napoléon.
Cow's milk blue cheese, poached pear, Marcona almonds, black pepper.
Chocolate and hazlenut wafers, caramel cream, dark chocolate croquette, chocolate gelato.
Of the five of us at our table, only one opted for the cheese dessert. He offered to let the rest of us try it. We refused.
I'm sure it's good, but cheese isn't really a dessert for me. And at that point I was getting full.
The caramel cream wasn't to my liking, but two of the others at my table enjoyed it. The dark chocolate croquette was just dark chocolate. The wafer was a deep fried piece of chocolate that oozed out as you bit into it. The gelato had a minty taste to it.
The dessert was probably one of the highlights for me that evening. I'm big on chocolate though, so my opinion about it is likely biased.
After finishing that, I thought it was the end of the meal. But nope! Not quite yet. They finished it off with a nice little surprise.
In order, from left to right (or closest to furthest): cappuccino, red apple, fig, cappuccino, fig.
I had the fig. It was all right. I've never had a fig before (and still don't know what it is, even after looking up pictures on Google), but it's not a flavour I would think of using for a macaron. I would have been happier with dark chocolate, blueberry, or pumpkin flavours, but it was a new (and not unpleasant) taste.
It was a nice evening on the whole. The tasting menu might change, but you should still expect great service and food prepared with care. If you have the money for it, I would probably recommend the place for a special occasion at least once, and then you can judge for yourself if this is a place you'll come back to again.
(Out of five stars)
(Out of five stars)