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Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013

Grand Reopening at Aubergine Delivers Fresh New Future

After my first Aubergine experience with Justin Cogley and Ron Mendoza, I turned to every tool I could find to attempt to describe it - poetry, inspirational quotes and photographs among them. 

 

I ultimately wrote (in part) that they delivered "10 small plates of big possibility, precise miniature harmonies that bridged reality and fantasy by connecting seemingly mutually exclusive domains - the simple and complex, the familiar and the mysterious, the calming and the energizing."

 

Put differently, the place is flat-out inspiring. And now they're only amplifying the feel and flavor of the fine dining destination with upgrades to the room and the freshness of the fare. Check out the video we shot Monday:

 

Watch Chef Cogley Work

 

More good news: While dinner there can be expensive, the upcoming open houses - complete with snacks and tours of the restaurant and super fly hotel on Jan. 18 and 25 - are free. Cogley's new canapes are also more approachable and affordable.

And the grand reopening Jan. 31, while not cheap by any stretch ($98), is a serious bargain for al-you-can-eat amazingness.

It includes clever house cocktails, fine sparkling wines, Kumomoto and Caraquet oysters at the raw bar, chilled Maine lobster salad, Dungeness crab on par with what you saw in the video, Royal Select California Estate Caviar, Wagyu beef and Hawaiian blue prawns on the yakitori grill, all sorts of escabeches and pork lomo and salchichon Catalan tapas in the kitchen, exclusive cheeses in the wine cellar and insane Mendoza desserts all over the place.

Grand is right.

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* Bankers Casino (422-6666) is adding a sports bar/off-track betting joint called The Triple Crown OTB & Sports Bar. Grand opening Friday, Feb. 1.

* Believe it: $5 for a dozen Red's Donuts Monday and Tuesday until they run out at the Monterey (372-9761) and Seaside (394-3444) spots.

* Brophy'sTavern (624-2476) has Big Daddy Speakeasy 22-ouncers for $6. And probably the best - certainly the biggest - Chicago hot dog ($10 for what seems like a 10-footer) in town.

* I know no better use of $3.75 than the combo bahn mi with headcheese, steamed pork, pate, carrot, cucumber at Chopstix (372-2622, 899-2622). Ask for it spicy.

* From 10-11:30am Saturday, Jan. 26, free public compost workshop at Marina's MRWMD. One of the handiest free classes in the area-greens the kitchen, reduces trash, boosts the garden, www.mrwmd.org or 384-5313.

* Locals get 15 percent off every Tuesday at Cantinetta Luca (625-6500) and 400 Degrees (244-0040). 

A Look at the Brand-New Workers Lunch at il vecchio Starting Monday

When il vecchio (324-4282) burst onto the Pagrovian scene back a year and half-ish, their intuition for sturdy and flavorful Italian balanced with fun and affordability immediately earned our readers votes for Best Italian in Monterey County - and almost won them Best New Restaurant of the Year. (Restaurant 1833 deservedly claimed that.)

 

It certainly won them the Weekly's attention, by way of enthusiastic review by Jeanne Howard and In Your Dish food video by Joel Ede and me.

 

They haven't stopped engineering ways to put tasty values in bellies, most recently with the bargain set menu Monday-Tuesday L' Avventuras in Cucina.

 

And now they're taking that model to the midday hour with pranzo de lavoro, or "workers lunch," for $9 ($6 kids 10 and under) plus tax and tip.

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