The low-slung, sharp-edged building at the corner of Citrus and Melrose avenues has plenty of stories to tell. Few of them have happy endings. It was previously home to upscale restaurants like Michel Richard’s Citrus as well as Alex, Meson G, and Red Pearl Kitchen—the last three of which opened and shuttered in a span of nine years. Later came Quinn and Karen Hatfield’s eponymous fine-dining spot, which lasted eight; the address’s most recent (and lasting) role was in the 2014 film Chef, in which it doubles as a fine-dining spot run by Jon Favreau.https://www.instagram.com/p/BvVYpMmB_G0/
But 6703 Melrose has a new occupant these days. The brainchild of former Guy Savoy executive chef Eric Bost, Auburn has ambitions to match its sprawling European-style open kitchen, complete with a roaring hearth and a surplus of sauté stations. The dining room, designed by Belgian expats Maša and Jon Kleinhample, is equally spacious, an airy oasis of calm that blends the earthiness of Pujol with the stark modernism of Noma.
There’s a certain formalism to Bost’s cooking, but the classically trained chef adds enough California spirit to provide a sense of place. Beurre de baratte is blended with creamy avocados and slicked with herb-infused oil—the bread-and-butter course meets avocado toast. Bright-green fava beans and tender nubs of asparagus offer a vision of spring, and roasted marrowbone and thin slivers of razor clam provide a welcome lash of umami. Beautifully seared ribeye is paired with tart baby plums; molten epoisse cheese is presented tableside and spooned on top of sunchokes that are roasted until they nearly collapse. Dessert might be a slow-roasted, salt-coated orange, the pulpy innards transformed into a bittersweet custard and topped with a clove-scented orange granita.https://www.instagram.com/p/BxVwobgBoaQ/
What sets Auburn apart, at least from other restaurants in town seemingly designed with the Michelin Guide in mind, might be its tasting menu. Options include four courses ($75) up to nine ($150), with each dish of the dozen listed available to mix and match. Want the crudo and three desserts? No one is going to stop you. The format aims to remove some of the stuffiness of high-end dining. Will it be enough to shatter the space’s curse? Time will tell. But if nothing else, L.A. loves a good reinvention story.
Auburn, 6703 Melrose Ave., Hancock Park, auburnla.com.