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Auberge at Ojai

314 El Paseo Rd., Ojai CA 93023 [map]

Wednesday - Sunday, beginning at 5:30pm

Sunday Brunch: 10 am - 2 pm

Chef Christian Shaffer has taken his culinary vision beyond the Los Angeles county line with the January opening of Auberge at Ojai. The restaurant is located in the heart of Ojai at 314 El Paseo and was formerly L’Auberge. Featuring indoor and outdoor seating, the restaurant’s 2,000 square feet will house a total of 90 seats.

Having opened two successful restaurants, Avenue and the recently shuttered Chloe in the Los Angeles-area, Shaffer has demonstrated staying power and a talent for creating low-key white table cloth concepts with highlights such as monthly menus and diverse, well-thought out wine lists.

With Auberge at Ojai, Shaffer prepares his trademark progressive American/French fare and at some point plans to feature a tasting menu option. Wines from the Ojai and Central California Coast compile half of the wine offerings with European varietals and some cult wines rounding out the other half. As with Avenue, Shaffer will also offer a reserve wine list.

Chef Nickos Rovello (Ouest, the Patina Group, Water Grill), will bring his bi-coastal culinary experience to the table as Chef de Cuisine. Chef Rovello helped open Ouest, Tom Valenti’s groundbreaking restaurant in New York City and also worked with Daniel Boulud to open BD Bistro Moderne in Times Square.

Reviews from Publications and Diners

I do not think they will make it the way they are going about it. I have been there when it was L'Auberge it was very nice. We ate there whenever we were in Ojai. They need to slowly raise prices after they have a customer base not before.

My wife and I have lived in Ojai for 15 years and L'Auberge was our favorite restaurant. We were very dissapointed when we ate at the new "Auberge". While the service was good, the food was average with very small portions at very high prices. The character of the new restaurant is nothing like the old and in our opinion an Ojai landmark is gone forever. We will not be back to the new Auberge.

Shaffer mingles French technique with American ingredients to make dishes that are French-Californian, a fusion that has a long history in L.A. Here at Auberge at Ojai, just as at his Manhattan Beach restaurant Avenue, he keeps his menu limited to eight first courses and eight main courses.

Because the menu changes almost entirely each month, he can be flexible enough to take advantage of the seasons at the farmers market. And chef de cuisine Nickos Rovello, who worked with Shaffer at Pinot at the Chronicle and with Michael Cimarusti at Water Grill, is definitely on the same wavelength.

I appreciate that though Shaffer's very much aware of what most people like to eat, he doesn't play it safe as so many chefs do. He always has a handful of more surprising dishes on his menus. One that catches my attention here is chickpea fritter, something like the chickpea pancakes called socca that are a specialty of Nice on the French Riviera. The flavor is nutty and warm, which makes the fritter a worthy foil for a salad of tender frisée strewn with pomegranate seeds in a punchy cumin vinaigrette.

The Auberge is no slapdash bistro. Shaffer has furnished the place with good stemware and plates in fashionable shapes, the better to present the food. The kitchen doesn't stint on top-notch ingredients either. All of this costs, yet the main courses are all priced below $30.

...first glance at the menu showed that the new Auberge would not be sticking with the French Country theme of its predecessor, nor the pricing. The restaurant has had a major face lift inside and out and it looks great. After a glass of Pinot Noir, the sticker shock subsided and we enjoyed a wonderful mushroom and asparagus risotto first course. It was rich, creamy, buttery and had a perfect bite. Our entrees were equally impressive: Bill had the duck and I had the grouper. The dessert, though, takes the cake (pun intended). How's this one: hot chocolate cake with a gooey chocolate center, served in a coffee cup with a roasted marshmallow spoon? It still makes me dizzy thinking about it (in a good way).

posted at The Ojai Post

...The kitchen knows what to do with foie gras and turned out a perfectly seared slice paired with maple-glazed pears in a Muscat sauce. Salads are fresh and inventive. House-cured gravlax was quite salty, though.

For sheer comfort, try the succulent grandmother's chicken with pearl onions, bacon, carrots and turnips. Braised oxtail makes an appearance with hearty barley and cèpes. Skate wing comes in a green sauce with fresh asparagus and salsify. Cubes of butternut squash make a lovely accompaniment for venison, but this is one dish in which the chef goes over the top with a fussy presentation and a chocolate sauce that would better suit an ice cream sundae.

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