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Aug 16, 2007 08:32 PM

New to Fifth Ave.: AOC Bistro

In the space formerly occupied by Mekong, AOC Bistro has opened. The menu is straight ahead French bistro, putting it in direct competition with Moutarde, Belleville and Cocotte.
Probably a spinoff of AOC on Bleecker St.. Any early impressions?

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  1. I walked by it a few days ago and there was a BUMPING party going on. Chic looking people with drinks clogging up the sidewalk. I'm psyched for some French though. Just hope its not like that all the time.

    5 Replies
    1. re: subinai

      Sounds like the grand opening party. I walked by last night and it was very laid back. I was looking at the menu in the window when someone came out with a table menu - he said it was easier to read. Nice start in the service department. I'm looking forward to trying the food.

      1. re: jamzer

        The SO and I tried AOC Bistro tonight. We came in around 9pm and it was surprisingly crowded. Not full, so there was no wait, but hopping enough to show that people have noticed. And based on our experience, I think the notice is worthwhile.

        Upon entering, we were quickly and warmly greeted and led to a table. The wine list, while not enormous, is varied enough (French based, naturally) with enough of a range of prices to make most people happy. The menu too is quite varied and large. There are quite a few appetizers, as well as a selectioin of salads and a few soups. For main courses there is an assortment of poultry, meats, pasta and fish and seafood dishes. In addition, on the back of the menu there was a selection of sandwiches, but I didn't realize this until after I had ordered so I didn't get a chance to look at it.

        There were a LOT of choices to decide from. After a tough decision, I decided on Onion Soup and a Cassoulet, while the SO got a Mussel Saffron soup and Coq Au Vin.

        My onion soup was delicious. Just cheesy enough to be satisfying, but not ridiculously so. The broth was chock full of onions and had that great sweetness that onoin soup should have. Her mussel and saffron soup was interesting. I think she was expecting a more typical mussels in saffron broth, so she was surprised to find it was more of a creamy bisque type. It had a single mussel in the middle and, I believe, purred mussels. It was very thick and creamy and, as I said, resembled a bisque. Quite delicious.

        My cassoulet was very tasty as well. It contained duck, two types of sausage and, I believe, a huge hunk of bacon lardon or pork belly. It was served in a delicious bean salad with tomato sauce. I thought the dish was terrific and the flavors very well balanced. My one complaint was that the pork element (again I can't confirm this because it was not listed in the description) added a tad too much salt to the dish.

        Her Coq Au Vin was delicious. Very hearty, with nice pieces of chicken, lardon and vegetables in a very flavorful sauce. It was served with taglietelle, which was a bit surprising to me. At the end, when she told the server that she enjoyed it very much, but would have preferred potatoes or rice with the dish, he indicated that next time she could certainly ask for it with a different starch.

        For dessert we had a tarte tartin -- a sort of upside down apple pie, which was served with a side of whipped cream. The whipped cream itself was a bit strong, but when we blended it with the tart (as the waiter instructed us to do) the flavors blended perfectly.

        All told it was a very enjoyable meal. The service too was very friendly -- from the servers to the busboy.

        The layout itself is very comfortable -- enough seating to fit a lot of people, but not feel overly cramped.

        Prices were very fair for the neighborhood/cuisine as well. I believe my Cassoulet was the most or second most expensive item on the menu, and that was $23.

        All told, I have very high hopes for this place. They seem very eager to please, and aside from a few nitpicks, I think AOC Bistro will be added to the regular rotation of neighborhood restaurants.

        Its not necessarily on the level of Tempo or Al Di La, but it serves very solid, very enjoyable french "comfort" food in a relaxed, friendly setting at affordable prices. In my opinion, it is exactly what the neighborhood needs...nothing pretentious, and not another sushi place. Just delicious food.

        FYI -- it is related to AOC on Bleeker street. Also, we noticed that quite a few of the patrons were French -- so that's got to stand for something.

        I recommend and will definitely be back.

        1. re: elecsheep9

          Thanks for the comprehensive report.
          We plan to take our sister-in-law out for her birthday tomorrow night...maybe AOC Bistro would be a good choice. Can you comment on the noise level? Could you and the SO carry on a conversation during your dinner?

          1. re: famdoc

            The noise level was not excessive. It was certainly lively, what with music and other diners, but not intrusive to conversation.

          2. re: elecsheep9

            A specific question about tarte tatin: Isn't it supposed to have a THIN layer of apple slices? The one at AOC had a mushy, inch-high layer of apples on top of the dough. I was disappointed, because this is exactly why I don't like most American apple pies, and why my experience with tarte tatin has usually been better. I agree with elecsheep, though, that the tartness of the creme fraiche offset the apple glob nicely.

      2. The wife and I checked this place out on Monday night (Labor Day).

        The place was pretty crowded and we decided to sit at the bar. The bartender was very friendly and poured us a bottle of white that he suggested. It was too sweet for us and he had no problem opening a new bottle.

        When we walked in the very loud sound system was playing Edith Piaf which made sense. Soon, however, it fell into Barry White and other disco songs. This may work in the city but for Brooklyn it felt like I was dining at Studio 54. One couple sitting next to us actually walked out saying it was "too damn loud." I sort of have to agree. The manager raced out after them to no avail.

        Anyway...on to the food.

        We started with a delcious goat cheese salad. The goat cheese was wrapped in phyllo dough along with some spinach and served over a bed of arugula. It was delicious and the phyllo was crisp and not at all greasy.

        We also split the escargot which, while bathed in garlic oil, still retained the wonderful taste and texture of the snail.

        For dinner, the wife had (and I can't remember the French name for this) a perfectly seared, charred sirloin burger on top of light, fluffy mashed potatoes. On top of the burger was a fried egg. It was a mere $10 and can be found under the sandwiches section. It was delicious and should be experienced.

        To offset the cheap price of the burger I went with one of the more expensive items on the menu- the Cassoulet ($23). I found it a bit salty and not enough of the fat on the duck had been rendered leaving a sort of filmy white sheet over the meat. It wasn't awful but it wasn't great either. I should have had the Coq au Vin. Next time.

        Not being the dessert types our check with a bottle of wine, two apps, and two entrees came to under $100. I will be going back but they really need to turn down the music- it's excessive and unnecessary.

        3 Replies
        1. re: pastoralia

          Thanks for the great review...very helpful. We're planning a visit tomorrow night.
          As I get older, the ability to speak with my dining companion and hear what she has to say has become more and more important. A loud dining room completely detracts from my enjoyment of the food. Hopefully, owner will take the advice of unhappy guests and turn the music down.
          We're not meat eaters, so I'm anxious to try the fish and the salads. Hope the salade nicoise is fresh and authentic (looking for fresh, not canned, tuna, haricots verts and anchovies).
          How would you compare AOC Bistro to the other french bistros in the slope? My favorite has been Cocotte, with Moutarde and Belleville much further down the list.

          1. re: famdoc

            Same goes for me. I wish Belleville was better but it's not. The only reason I can think why Moutarde still exists is run-off from Al di La. Cocotte has its charms and I love the place but it's food can be hit or miss.

            I must say the decor of all three "old" French bistros in the Slope beats AOC's modern design which I find a bit cold.

            I am pretty sure the tuna is seared fresh since I saw someone order the Nicoise.

          2. re: pastoralia

            i havent been but the reviews here simply remind me of a louder version of belleville or cocette. for these prices and quality, i think ill pass.

          3. I had dinner at AOC last Friday. On a date with a French guy and he was clearly impressed. Wine list was solid bistro fare and the food was very good. I had the flank steak with some of the best gratin potatoes I've tasted in a while. The waiter was French and very good. i dont mind the modern setting. I think the other French places have the bistro look down, I liked the clean modern lines. While the music was loud, it was Friday, and I never mind hearing Stevie Wonder!

            2 Replies
            1. re: sharonm

              Dinner at AOC Thursday night was quite decent. Music was background and unobtrusive. Decor worked fine for me. Herring appetizer with new potatoes was excellent and generous: enough for two to share. I had the mixed seafood in saffron creme sauce in phyllo dough over spinach. Again, generous portion. Very tasty, the seafood was done just right. The spinach a bit salty. Wife had sea bass over mashed potatoes/cauliflower. A bit bland. Nice rose from Provence.
              We'll go back. Prefer it to Moutarde and Belleville. On par with Cocotte on a good night.

              1. re: famdoc

                I wonder if they tone down the music during the week...I'll just have to go again and find out.

            2. The following is a review posted by a college student currently working at a three-star restaurant.. this is noted for whatever perspective that may give you:

              I visited the botanical gardens with the gf recently, stopped by Beacon's Closet, and decided to find a place for dinner. Neither of us really knew Park Slope, but 5th seemed like a nice place to window shop for a meal. We passed one of the more traditionally-decorated bistros, Moutarde?, but eventually came across aoc bistro's pleasant facade. After deciding the tuna looked nice, we decided to keep on going, but eventually rounded back as the sheer novelty of having a French dinner to James Brown was just too appealing to keep me away. The place has balls.

              It was a relatively quiet Tuesday night and we were sat immediately and served by a French waiter who selected a perfect bottle of wine at a great price. While I'm not an expert in French wine, it appeared as though their list was well-rounded.

              The goat cheese salad was a great start to the meal, although the escargot was fairly chewy. I'm not sure if that's how it should be, but the gf assured me that it should melt in your mouth. Either way, it was tasty, and I would likely order it again.

              The tuna was out on this particular night, but at the waiter's suggestion I ordered the lobster, which was a bit tough, but the flavour and plating were very nice. Unfortunately I can't remember what the gf got, although I remember being a bit jealous of her, despite having a lobster head in front of me. For dessert we each got a delicious and spot-on creme brulee and a glass of tawny.

              All in all, the tab was under $150 with tip, which was a bit much considering the lobster, but the service was very good, the music was fantastic (albeit unusual), and by far the best restaurant experience I've had with this particular girl. In addition, this is the first restaurant experience I thoroughly enjoyed since working at a restaurant, but it is certainly not the most highly-regarded.

              Looking forward to returning, in hopes that the tuna is back on this time.

              1 Reply
              1. re: fleetwoodbitches

                We were there this weekend as well. When we arrived Friday at around 7:15; the music wasn't that loud, but got progressively louder as the place filled up. It was indeed pretty loud by the time we left, although we didn't find it a problem--at least it was good music--Edith Piaf and Ray Charles. All the windows were wide open which helped; I think if they had it that loud with everything shut in colder weather, it would be another story

                Now as to the food--we found it good, not great, a bit uneven. Hubby had the escargots to start which he said were good, if a little chewy. I had the Beignet du Crevette which were essentially jumbo shrimp fried in a beignet batter with a sweet dipping sauce. Not particularly French, but delicious, and a huge portion---really almost enough to be a main course--six jumbo shrimp with a frisse salad on the side. So after apps we were thinking positively, however, the main courses were a bit disappointing. I had the lamb chops which were overdone--more medium well than the medium rare I ordered. The sauce for them was supposed to be a wine sauce but didn't have much flavor, rather bland. I actually salted them and I rarely do that in a restaurant. He had the lamb shank which he said was dry and also too bland. Both dishes came with the same mixed vegetables which happened to be very tasty, really the best thing on the plate. Portions were quite generous.

                Dessert was a fantastic chocolate mousse, deep chocolate flavor with little flecks of chocolate in it, a great ending. Service was fine, room was nice. Bill came to about $100 with a nice Cote du Rhone.

                I think its worth going back for another try. It wasn't as good as Belleville in its heyday (when it first opened)...but its better than Moutarde. Have to add, the table next to us ordered a side of french fries which smelled and looked incredible, it was all I could do not to reach over and grab some :) Next time I gotta try those fries--and have that mousse again.

              2. How would you all compare the food at A.O.C. to the food at le Petit Marche in Brooklyn Heights?

                We have been there quite a few times and liked the food and ambiance very much.