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First dinner at A.O.C.

I know I know, it took me years to finally go here.

After skimming a lot of posts about A.O.C. I found a review I wholeheartedly agree with by Griller. For a restaurant that is essentially serving good bistro fare the crowd is too large, prices too steep, room is too scene-y.

We had:

Market greens salad (can't figure out why this is 9 bucks, it's about 4 bites of mixed greens)
3 cheeses, (Mt. Tam, a spanish goat and a sheeps milk)
Parma prosciutto
Terrine (I prefer campagne style, this was a tad rubbery, nice flavor though and the mostarda was good)
Lamb meatballs
Gateau Breton (dense cake with vanilla cream and apples, decent)

Shared a caraffe of pinot (I know I know, not adventurous but we were keeping things light on the spending) shared a Sauternes with dessert, very bitter espresso and a watery coffee, tax and tip came to $140.

I'm sure there are better things to order. However, after spending $140 and having to wait 20 minutes for a table, I feel like there shouldn't be some things on the menu glaringly better than others. AOC would be fine as a neighborhood hangout, but to see it in the 3rd spot on the 2006 Chowhound Best Of list, and to see the well-heeled crowd piling in with valet service in front is a true statement about the food scene in L.A.

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  1. Doh! My take on this is that there's one born every minute and the rest of us in LA just go for cheap Chinese. Put differently, the stand-out restaurants in Los Angeles mostly excel on value.

    Thank you for helping me discard another expensive restaurant from my to-do (or to-expense-account) list. I'm always curious whether my impecunious ways are leading me to miss out on a great meal, but more often than not, expense-account outings suggest not.

    Have you been to Lucques? Is it any better or worse?

    1. I applaud you for giving an honest explanation of the reasons you did not enjoy the restaurant. With your fiscal constraints, you are competing with lots of other diners who are willing to throw lots more money on the table to get an excellent meal. It's supply and demand. You do not wish to play that game, so you can not get the same experience the high rollers do at AOC. You would probably have similar difficulties at Spago, Cut, Mastro's, etc. You might like Josie better but it's not much cheaper. At least it's not as scene-y. If you are trying to be financially pragmatic and avoid disappointment, you might look at any number of "best" lists as restaurants to ignore. Go ethnic, go neighborhood, go cheaper and be happier.

      3 Replies
      1. re: mc michael

        There's a mere mortals list too.

        I walked by last night (after having a great dinner at Hirozen) and wanted to stop in just for a glass of wine but it was p-p-p-packed. Celadon was busy. La Terza was busy. Toast was busy. Ortolan was busy. Little Door was busy. I ended up going to Doughboys for some cookies and walked home to watch Scrubs on DVD.

        The dates are my favorite item on the AOC menu.

        With regards to the espresso and the coffee, did you tell your server that it was too bitter and watery? You'd send back an improperly cooked steak, right?

        1. re: SauceSupreme

          I did send back the espresso the first time as it was too long. It came back the proper size the second time but equally bitter. The one thing I forgot to mention in the original post is our server at the bar was one of the better parts of our evening. She was genuinely concerned about the espresso and personally brewed the second one. I didn't have it in me to return it again, she was very sweet.

        2. re: mc michael

          Yes, I like this advice. Generally, when I see reviews about the high end stuff, I choose to ignore, and "go neighborhood, go cheaper." It's not so much about the money, as about the idea of spending so much money on something that I think I would enjoy better elsewhere for cheaper. I find it fascinating how many "high-end" restaurant reviews there are on Chowhound, and I read them, and say, "Probably won't go there." :)

        3. i don't know how much research you did on what to order, but i did a TON of research on these boards and nothing you mentioned above is what was recommended. my husband and i went there for dinner about a month ago and thought it was fantastic. see my post:
          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/36377...

          we went with another couple and spent $120 total for the both of us, and thought it was one of our top meals recently...and we eat well - providence, spago, josie have all been recent places we have eaten and AOC was probably on the top of the list. its really about knowing what to order - can make or break your experience...and that's at any restaurant.

          4 Replies
          1. re: allisonteal

            These days, when there are so many great places around L.A. to eat, after I've had so many great meals, it's tiring to hear the "You ordered incorrectly" argument.

            Keep in mind, I had a good meal. Nothing we had was mediocre. The point I was attempting to express was that our dining experience last night was not worth the money nor the hassle. I've eaten at quite a few of the hyped places around town and didn't feel the same way.

            Ttriche-I have eaten at Lucques, though it was a couple years ago. I've been meaning to go back to make up my mind. There were items that were great (trout, desserts) and other items that were downright bad (pork belly, white asparagus app) The noise level was outrageous (we sat on the patio) and spent about the same as A.O.C.

            1. re: fooddude37

              you just proved my point though with the fact that not everything on a menu is great as your expereince with Lucques with the pork belly and white asparagus? I am sorry you don't like my argument, but I also don't think that you can make judgements on one visit. You should give it another try and order some things they are more known for.

              1. re: allisonteal

                I know full well that one cannot make a full judgement on a restaurant simply based on one visit, and I plan to return at some point. I understand Lucques is a very popular restaurant and there's probably a reason why.

                In regards to the disappointments at Lucques: I ordered the white asparagus app as it was a special. I find that chefs will often put their best foot forward with specials as it allows them the chance to showcase their product and their abilities. This dish was bland, not cooked properly, and didn't taste remotely of truffle (it was advertised as being served with truffle butter). The pork belly was dry as a bone and tough. The pork belly was also being highly lauded on the CH boards at the time. I'm not quite sure what the problem was, pork belly is quite easy to prepare. These are not problems of inconsistency in my opinion. These are flaws that reflect a lack of supervision in the kitchen, or worse, a supervision that is willing to send out food that was very improperly prepared.

                1. re: fooddude37

                  I am fairly certain it was not pork belly that was ever recommended here on CH, but rather Lucques roast suckling pig. Two different dishes.

          2. Scene-y? I thought it was kind of mellow, and I was there on a weekend, but we had an early dinner reservation.
            Scene-y is Geisha House.

            1. Just have to throw out a bit of love to AOC. Definitely not an everyday, pay-with-the-change-you-just-found-under-the-couch-cushions restaurant -- but always enjoy myself when I go. Love the great wines they offer and how many you can get by the glass. (Also that they let you order half-glasses). Also appreciate how informed about the wine and good pairings the wait-staff is -- and how pleasant they are in general. In terms of food, my favorite is the black squid ink risotto. Weakest point for me is atmosphere which is not at all bad but just a bit stiff and stodgy especially for a let's-all-share-plates kind of restaurant . Sitting at the bar is more fun.