Tucked into the quaint seaside surroundings of Carmel, this high-end restaurant boasts the same appealing mix of luxury and simplicity as its home in the cottage-like L’Auberge Carmel. With only a dozen or so tables, it’s an intimate retreat that offers personalized attention. Low ceilings, soft lighting, gauzy curtains and a soothing design add to the hushed aura—though a 2,500-bottle wine cellar will perk up any oenophile.
Helmed by Chef Justin Cogley, the kitchen eschews elaborate technique for a classic approach to fine dining. The meal may open with three small bites—an oyster topped with creamy yuzu foam; a mini tartlet of artichoke; and a crispy potato croquette topped with glazed eel. Local tomatoes are sweet and flavorful; and arranged with some pieces of melon, tiny cucumbers, a dollop of caviar and a pour of gazpacho broth for the appropriately titled "flavors of summer." Roasted breast of local duck is served with a spoonful of duck jus, but the filet of tender, 28-day dry-aged rib eye is an absolute star.
Finally, thin slices of brownie arranged with dark chocolate tuiles, chocolate ganache and a dollop of torched meringue is an elegant take on s'mores.