Food Worth Writing For

Farewell, Auburn of Los Angeles: The End to a Promising Fine Dining Restaurant

While this post is in memory of Auburn, a promising restaurant in Hollywood that has closed due to the coronavirus, I would just like to say something before we discuss Auburn and the current state of the restaurant world in more detail: It is currently a very tumultous time and I would like to say that it is important for you to stand up for what is right and what is important to you. If you can’t volunteer time, please donate to causes you believe in. Having said that, let’s discuss restaurants and Auburn!

It has been a horrible start to 2020 with COVID-19 shutting down many economies and societies; with COVID-19 being a very contagious disease, restaurants have been forced to close for dining and open only for take-out and delivery services. This has made it very difficult for restaurants to survive since many were working on razor-thin profit margins already. This is even more true for restaurants of Los Angeles and San Francisco, where the cost of living and rent are so high.

During an update in late May, Los Angeles County Supervisor Barger announced that 80% of jobs in the restaurant industry are gone. Of course, this isn’t surprising news; with dining rooms closed and restaurants only open for take-out or delivery, many are losing money or barely breaking even. Most restaurants make their money from alcohol sales. Plus, with the safer-at-home orders, many people are cooking at home more and take-out orders for many restaurants have been dismal. While safer-at-home restrictions are slowly being lifted and many restaurants will eventually be able to open their dining rooms again, the shutdown proved to be a final blow to a few restaurants, some that will be dearly missed. Auburn, a New American restaurant based in Hollywood, announced its permanent closure in late April.

Auburn’s design/brand placement for their plates. It creates a rustic and classy atmosphere from the moment you sit down. Photo by Author.

While Auburn was doing well and the dining room always had a lot of customers, COVID-19 was too much for the restaurant, which had just had its one-year anniversary. Besides its high construction costs due to delays, high labor costs, and competition among high-end restaurants in Los Angeles, COVID-19 was the final devastating blow. Auburn had quickly put together an amazing menu when Los Angeles restricted restaurants to only take-out and delivery, but the revenue didn’t cover much of the costs.

Their space for private small groups and events. Beautiful and well-thought-out decor. Photo by Author.

Auburn was also just announced as a finalist for a James Beard award for Restaurant Design. James Beard Foundation presents annual awards nationally to recognize culinary professionals in the United States; it is quite a prestigious award. It isn’t surprising though based off how beautiful of a space Auburn was. Go to Dezeen to see their article on the design of the space; it’s absolutely amazing (https://www.dezeen.com/2019/04/03/auburn-restaurant-oonagh-ryan-klein-agency-melrose-avenue-los-angeles/). It’s rare to see a restaurant so well designed from the bathrooms to the kitchen to the dining area. Every material and item placement was well thought out. It shows how much passion and sweat Chef and Owner Chef Eric Bost put into his restaurant’s brand and image. With its exposed wood beam ceiling and white slab walls and floors, Auburn is quite the elegant and well-designed restaurant.

Photo of the unisex restrooms. Sink on the outside of the restrooms. This is important because the restroom has a consistent design/style to that of the restaurant. A lot of times, a high-end restaurant falls flat on execution when it fails to take into consideration that the restroom is also part of the brand of the restaurant. Photo by Author.

Auburn received high praise from food critics and it isn’t a surprise. Chef Eric Bost worked at Guy Savoy’s restaurants in Las Vegas and Singapore, so he has a lot of experience under his belt. His restaurant offers a tasting menu, and allows you to select four, six, or nine courses. I attended a birthday party at Auburn, and was fortunate enough to try its nine-course tasting menu. Its wine pairing with the menu was also great; the sommelier was top-notch and chose amazing red and white wines and dessert wines to pair with each course. The restaurant also has a casual, relaxing atmosphere; this combination with the beauty of the restaurant design and the great food and service makes Auburn a fantastic restaurant that will be missed dearly.

Here’s the menu I had that night and pictures of each dish. Each course was fantastic with the right amount of acidity or sweetness and the ingredients complemented one another. There are times some restaurants try to experiment to try something “unique” and the ingredients don’t work well together. This is not one of them.

9-course tasting menu of the night. One can choose four or six courses for a lighter meal. Photo by Author.
Cucumbers: Lightly set curds, nectarine, oxalis, verbena kombucha. Photo by Author.
Hiramasa Crudo: citrus fern, celery, purple radish, blackberry, Angerlime. Photo by Author.
Brandywine tomatoes: black mission figs, seaweed marmalde, sesame, shiso, jasmine. Photo by Author.
Black Cod: sauce of its bones smoked over embers, brown butter, watercress. Photo by Author.
Eggplant: charred in the hearth, puffed grains, black garlic, almonds, onion essence. Photo by Author.
Sonoma Duck: koji aged, roasted kohlrabi, green apple, young mustards. Photo by Author.
Yogurt: Mushroom Caramel. I ate the Epoisse and last dessert without taking pictures. Photo by Author.

Overall, the menu was great, the execution was perfect, and the service was amazing. I would say that while Auburn is permanently closing, that it is only a temporary good bye, as I believe Chef Eric Bost will come back with an even more amazing restaurant idea.

It is disconcerting how COVID-19 will impact restaurants and the livelihoods of many restaurateurs; with many restaurants closed for dining for several months with very little income from take-out and delivery services, I fear that many mom and pop businesses will close; chain restaurants will have a better chance of surviving and staying, but this may be the end to some restaurants and chefs who worked so hard to bring their dreams to fruition. Many may not recover financially from this, and recessions tend to defer people from wanting to take risks, so this may have long-term effects for amazing restaurants in Los Angeles in the future. Please support your local businesses that are slowly opening back up. Remember to stay safe!

References

https://laist.com/latest/post/20200520/coronavirus-los-angeles-county-updates-may-20

https://www.jamesbeard.org/blog/the-2020-james-beard-award-nominees

https://la.eater.com/2020/4/30/21242329/auburn-closed-los-angeles-eric-bost

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