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Auburn Puts Melrose Avenue Back on the Food Map

Chef Eric Bost’s version of a choose-your-own-fine-dining adventure includes anywhere from four to nine courses

Words by S. IRENE VIRBILA

 

Two years in the making, Auburn, the new restaurant from former Guy Savoy chef Eric Bost, moves into the iconic Melrose Avenue address where Citrus, and later, Hatfield’s, once fed L.A.’s well-heeled restaurant-goers. Now that fast casual rules the day (and night), is it possible to create a fine dining restaurant without the pomp and circumstance? Bost definitely thinks so. At Auburn, create your own tasting menu of four, six or nine courses, choosing from any of 12 dishes on the roster that night. “I want to give guests an experience that’s really approachable and understandable, but executed on a very high level,” Bost explains. And he certainly has the chops to do it.

A sense of generosity animates Auburn from start to finish. Before your first course, a couple of amuses or snacks arrives along with a warm loaf of rustic bread to rip into with your hands. A pale green avocado butter made with hand-churned butter from France is, for Bost, the perfect blend of France and California. It also gives a nod to the ubiquitous and beloved avocado toast.

A pale green avocado butter made with hand-churned butter from France is, for Bost, the perfect blend of France and California

The chef’s formidable technique underpins every dish, always in the interest of discovery and delight. English peas play wonderfully against Santa Barbara uni and transparent, very green seaweed. Oysters, finger lime and violet radish accent a yellowtail crudo, while bone marrow and slivered razor clam show off spring asparagus. Sprouted rye and bitter leaves temper the richness of a Sonoma duck medallion. And wagyu beef surprises, with the tiniest artichokes and charred Vidalia onions in a smoky broth. Instead of a parade of cheeses on a cart, the menu proposes just one perfect cheese, maybe a whole epoisses warmed on the hearth and presented on smashed caramelized roasted sunchokes. Wow.

Wines by the glass number a couple dozen, all remarkably interesting. And the one-page bottle list from sommelier Rick Arline is filled with savvy labels. You can also drop in for a glass at the bar where you can order ridgeback prawns with green garlic and pickled peppers, lamb tartare with charred broccoli, or oxtail with seaweed marmalade and sunchokes — and more.

Don’t miss pastry chef Dyan Ng’s desserts, especially if the salt-crusted orange is on offer. Slow roasted for four hours in a thick crust of kosher salt and crushed cinnamon sticks, it’s served with a sublime burnt honey flan.

The restaurant’s design from L.A.’s Klein Agency retools the space in a subtle palette of neutrals with textures of limestone, white oak and vegetable tanned leather

The restaurant’s design is courtesy of L.A.’s Klein Agency, who retools the space in a subtle palette of neutrals with textures of limestone, white oak and vegetable tanned leather. Part of the roof is open to the sky, centered over a swatch of grassy meadow with a feathery-leaved acacia growing toward the light.

Just when fine dining seems like something of a goner, here comes an exciting new restaurant to celebrate. 6703 Melrose Ave., L.A., 323-486-6703.

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