By Eleanor Hill
Perhaps the most recognizable restaurant name in Dayton, L’Auberge has stood the test of time when it comes to fabulous food and accommodating a continuously changing market. Owner Josef Reif has seen ups and downs in the food industry but has never shied from innovative ideas and menu selections to keep his restaurant on top.
L’Auberge has gone through several facelifts over the years and has settled into an art deco theme with bright colors and contemporary sculptures in the main dining room. Dining is sophisticated and elegant in this formal setting and patrons can enjoy a several course dinner along with a large and worldly wine list or flavorful cocktail. No detail of this experience has been overlooked from the Azure place settings to the high back soft chairs. White linen tablecloths are draped over the table while linen napkins are delicately placed on your lap as you are seated at your table.
There is an ever changing menu that greets you, as well as a weekly themed selection. Luckily for me, my arrival found a celebration of Tomato Heaven. Appetizers and salads included Tomato Bisque topped with garlic croutons and parmesan cheese. There was a Tomato Tartar served with thinly sliced Lox. This presentation made of a circular tower of mixed domestic and international heirloom tomatoes lightly dressed, was a palate pleasing delight. Another dish of organic tomatoes, avocados and crabmeat was also a summer pleasure with a light dill vinaigrette dressing and fresh ground peppercorn on top.
One of Reif’s talents is knowing that when you have a good thing going, you don’t let it end. A classic example is the recent Miami Valley Restaurant Week. Not only did L’Auberge participate in the semi annual event, they also extended it an extra two weeks with new menu choices each of those weeks. I cannot tell you how phenomenal the food is. One evening I started with a Tomato and Corn Bisque. It was slightly spicy but that just enhanced the pureed tomato creaminess and crunchy corn texture. It was then on to Veal Scaloppini with a Wild Mushroom Sauce. I hadn’t had veal in years and this veal was so tender, it almost melted in my mouth. (All meat at L’Auberge is farm raised and local whenever possible.) The Wild Mushroom Sauce was to die for and had such a powerful and persuasive aroma. Sides included fresh summer vegetables and Spaetzle.
My dining partner started their meal with an Asian Spring roll with Thai Sauce. This roll was light and flaky and the sauce was sweet and spicy with flakes of red pepper. The Braised Beef Short Ribs had sides of fresh summer vegetables and potatoes. These ever so tender beef chunks were bathed in a Cabernet reduction and made one’s mouth water. The extended week menu for the following week was also available, and after I saw the choices, I decided to come back the next week.
With no disappointment, the food was once again phenomenal. I’m partial to soups, and since I never make cold soup at home, my appetizer choice was the Melon and Squash Soup. It had a powerful cantaloupe flavor that was calming to the taste buds and very satisfying.
My entrée choice for the evening was the Roasted German Beef Roulade. The beef was as tender as could be. It was rolled up tightly around the dill pickle, onion and bacon, and covered with a divine Red Wine Mustard sauce. It was served with a gigantic potato pancake and fresh squash. My partner chose the homemade pasta with Scallops, Shrimp and Lobster Sauce. It was a little too fishy for my taste but flavorful and filling nonetheless.
In addition, desserts should not be overlooked as part of your dining experience. Although I always found myself full, the dessert portions are just right for a little sweet end to your meal. Try the Molten Chocolate Lava Cake if you get the chance. This homemade cocoa cake with a warm center stream of chocolate decadence is the perfect end to a perfect meal.
The daily menu is full of other wonderful menu selections. For your first course, you can start with Tuna Tartar, a Trio of Goat Cheese or Foie Gras and Chicken Liver Pate ($10). Lobster Bisque is a staple to the soup and salad portion of the menu along with the Rustic Caesar Salad or L’Auberge Bibb Salad. Main courses include Braised Pork Belly, Pan Seared Scallops, Wiener Schnitzel and Orange Glazed Duck Breast ($18-$28). The kitchen is now glass-enclosed so you can watch the chef prepare your courses right in front of you.
The restaurant also has a Bistro and Lounge area. The Bistro is a business-casual arrangement that includes a lunch menu. It passes through to the Lounge where there is entertainment on the weekends.
The exceptional wait staff are professionally dressed with proper manners and an eye for detail. Fresh flatware is brought to the table between courses and water glasses are always full.
I think there is a misconception about L’Auberge that I am guilty of having myself. This once “special occasion restaurant” has seen a transformation so that it is now accessible to all. There is still a dress code (which is welcoming) but pricing has been lowered. The food is of exceptional quality, the staff is professional and if you enjoy dressing up this is a great place to visit with a spouse or close friends for a special evening.
L’Auberge is located at 4120 Far Hills Ave., Kettering. Hours of operation: Bistro (business casual): Mon-Fri 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. (lunch) Mon-Sat 5:30 to 10 p.m. (dinner); Dining Room (formal): Tue-Sat: 5:30 to 10 p.m. Closed Sunday.For more information, call (937) 299-5536 or visit www.LaubergeDayton.com.
Reach DCP dining critic Eleanor Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org