Located in the ultra-luxurious L’Auberge Carmel (of Relais & Chateaux fame), Aubergine is just the type of restaurant you want to settle into after a day of exploring Carmel-by-the-Sea. Even among the raft of exceptional dining options that this quiet coastal enclave offers, Michelin-starred Aubergine stands out: with only nine tables in the main dining room and a 2,500-bottle wine cellar focusing on French and Monterey County wines, intimacy and excellence have always been the undoubted stars. More recently, the restaurant has begun serving its destination-worthy meals al fresco in its geranium- and bougainvillea-filled courtyard.
Chef Justin Cogley, former chef de cuisine at Chicago’s acclaimed Charlie Trotter’s and recipient of Food & Wine’s Best New Chef award in 2014, puts his signature touch on a finely crafted assortment of California-inspired and locally sourced dishes. The eight-course chef’s tasting menu—with optional wine pairings—is offered five nights per week (Wednesday through Sunday) and changes daily to showcase the best seasonal ingredients. Cogley’s savory entrées are followed, with equal distinction, by desserts prepared by skilled pastry chef Yulanda Santos.
Insider tip: Aubergine also offers a monthly theme-driven, four-course dinner series, Redefining Flavor, that gives anyone passionate about food the opportunity to experience fine dining in an abbreviated two-hour service. Past culinary themes have included the summer-inspired Maine Lobster Bake, Discover the Nordic, inspired by dishes from the North Sea and Northern Baltic, and Corn, Maize, Mealie, which explored that ancient staple in innovative ways.