Fine dining reframed without the fuss
Claim to fame: Reinventing the fine dining format in forward-thinking ways
Reason to go: Innovative cuisine in an arty, breezy ultra-LA setting
To look out for: The à la carte bar menu and the laidback brunch
This could just be the swankest art gallery you ever wanted to move into. Auburn is what you get when you cross painter Robert Ryman’s monochromatic conceptualism with light artist James Turrell’s ethereal installations; the dining room is all breezy white oak and buttery leather and features a retractable skylight over an indoor garden with a tender acacia tree reaching for the clouds. It’s equal parts Japanese or Scandinavian minimalism, yet it’s simultaneously irrefutably LA. It looks like the home of that worldly art advisor acquaintance of yours, the one who just taught you everything there is to know about Ryman and Turrell.
If you’re a worldly, wealthy art advisor you can afford to eat here every night of the week, if you’re like us, you’ll want to save this place for special occasions, when you want to impress someone from out of town and show them how cultured Angelenos can be.
Dinner at Auburn is a DIY affair of sorts, guided by a kindly waiter, you build your own four-, six- or eight-course menu from a selection of nine savory dishes and three desserts. Chef Eric Bost, who previously worked with Alain Ducasse and Guy Savoy and helmed LA’s perennial favorite, République, juxtaposes heady flavors with sweet nuances, sneaking in Asian accents and cloaking his Cali-bright cuisine in delicate smoky hues. Vermilion persimmons are charred in the coals of the sleek, glassed-in kitchen’s hearth and joined by freshly set curds, urgently orange marigolds and deep purple oxalis in a creamy-tart abstract composition. Burgundy-glistening venison tartare with slivers of red endive and green comice pear is a Kandinsky-colored tableau while the veal sweetbreads, roasted in brown butter and tinted with celery root, wild mushrooms and trotter ragout is a powerful portrait of earthiness. Seared scallops get sultry with smoked eel, clams and preserved meyer lemon, duck is koji-aged, making it slightly cellar-funky but as tender as Egon Schiele’s Embrace. Then there’s the Dali-esque moment of melted Époisses, scooped tableside over roasted sunchokes dotted with seeds and flower petals. Voilà, the cheese course reinvented by an American chef who lived in Paris and clearly can’t live without fromage.
Auburn’s triptych of desserts is signed Dyan Ng, all three dainty displays of creativity with an elegant disdain for cloying brushstrokes. Apples with Chantilly is a contemporary take on Tarte Tatin, as painstakingly plated as the silky quiver of chilled yoghurt with mushroom stock-deglazed caramel and impossibly splendid sprigs of candied fennel fronds.
The cocktails are yet another expression of Auburn’s arty prowess; behold the Palo Santo! Blended scotch whisky, palo santo, Jardesca (a fortified wine from Sonoma, fragrant with botanicals), fresh coconut water and apricot – an impeccable, liquid rendition of the delicately spicy aroma of sacred wood. Somm Rick Arline has sculpted the tight wine list with unusual labels from small vineyards near and far and rounded out the beverage list with beer, cider and a smattering of non-alcoholic options.