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NEIGHBORHOOD EATERY

For Lovers . . . and Meat-Eaters

October 13, 1994

Want to celebrate somewhere deluxe? Head over to Auberge at Barnabey's Hotel in Manhattan Beach, possibly the most romantic dining room in the South Bay. This elegant Victorian restaurant, lit by small red chandeliers, features intimate booths, partially shielded with red velvet drapes. Even when full, the room is so quiet you could hear a quenelle drop.

Fortunately, it's not only the decor at Auberge that's special. Chef Matthew Fitzgibbons' interest in food was ignited at age 12, when he had dinner at the Syracuse, N.Y., home of a friend whose dad was a contributor to Gourmet magazine. Many years later, Fitzgibbons got his break at the Depot in Torrance, where he learned California cuisine from respected chef Michael Shafer.

To begin, grilled polenta comes atop a mass of shiitake, oyster and chanterelle mushrooms in a veal reduction with garlic and shallots ($6.95). Won tons are filled with pork, rock shrimp and ginger, then given a kick by a wasabi-emboldened creme fraiche ($6.50).

Among the pastas, fettuccine comes with tenderloin of beef in a sauce of Gorgonzola cream and wild mushrooms ($13.95). For lighter tastes, there's angel hair tossed with olive oil, roasted peppers, fresh basil and Parmesan ($9.95).

Fresh fish specials are offered, but the forte at Auberge is meat. A thick, grilled free-range veal chop with smoked bacon comes with shiitake risotto ($23.95). Loin of venison, filet mignon, rack of lamb, even chateaubriand--all the old meat-eater's favorites--are here.

Auberge is at 3501 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Manhattan Beach. (310) 545-8466. Open daily 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.

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