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May 25, 2009 11:24 PM

AOC. Still One of LA's Best.

It's been a while since I've been back to AOC. At least 2-3 years, which is 2-3 years too long.

Having friends in town was a perfect excuse to go. We had:

-Dungeness crab salad with watercress, snap peas and tangello. A refreshing salad that highlights spring, the importance of fresh ingredients, and the brilliance of focused cooking.

-Halibut, salt cod gratin, sorrel, and garlic. Perfectly cooked crusted halibut. Yet another insanely delicious and balanced dish.

-Gulf shrimp, smoked tomato butter, and corn bread. The tomato sauce was rich and delicious and the shrimp was cooked in the shell. I realized that it's been a while since I've seen shrimp the shell at a high end restaurant. While it takes a little more work, undoubtedly the flavor that the shell provides is crucial. Kudos to AOC for having the gall to do so

These first 3 courses went insanely well with the champagne flight.

-pork confit (belly) with fresh garbanzos in a spicy au jus. The fresh garbanzos were a spectacular treat with a slightly green taste that again showed off AOCs market driven, seasonal philosophy in spades.

-Morels, ramps, and ricotta gnocchi. Yet another classic and delicious expression of spring.

-Brioche with prosciutto, gruyere, and egg. Is it possible to get tired of this dish? I don't think I ever will.

The meal was outstanding and while it is not as innovative or novel as Bazaar (which I liked) I can argue that AOC is one of LA's best restaurants surpassing even Lucques.

I realized that unfortunately, I got caught up in the hype of new restaurants doing "small plate dining" (like Gjelina, AK, Bazaar, XIV, etc.) and forgot the amazing, balanced, highly skilled, and REAL cooking that AOC is still churning out after all these years. The purity, focus, and freshness of the ingredients at AOC is refreshing and in my mind easily surpasses these newcomers in small plate dining. Oh, yeah, and they had no problems with a party of 3. The hostess and the service was top notch and profesional.

My only knock against AOC is that the wine list is very skewed towards California wines and a bit light on French offerings (especially red burgundy and bordeaux). Funny given the name of the restaurant but that's biased by my own preference in wine and easily corrected (corkage is $25).

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  1. Now you have me salivating to go and duplicate your menu (brioche with prosciutto, gruyere, and egg still packs quite a taste punch for sure). Thanks for a wonderful write up, Porthos. What was the pp damage - all in?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Servorg

      Damage after tip was around $90pp which included 3 champagne flights, 3 glasses of dessert wine, a panna cotta orange blossom ice cream dessert that I forgot to mention and $25 corkage. Most dishes were $15-18 each.

    2. Good to hear AOC is still a worthy visit; I've always had very enjoyable meals at the bar.

      Perhaps the wine list is domestically skewed in an effort to offer better value right now considering the dollar is weak.

      1. Hi Porthos,

        Great review. Thanks. :) I've still never been to AOC, even though it's convenient. I heard some mixed reports (and good ones) over the years and it's still on my list to try, but not as high up. Now I'll have to get there sooner rather than later. :)

        Pork Confit and Brioche sound wonderful (as did pretty much all your dishes you listed). :)

        1. I really need to go back. Glad to hear its as good as I remember. Have you been to Tasca? Also a small plates on my radar.

          1 Reply
          1. re: blackbookali

            I've been to Tasca. It's good but neither the wine list nor the cuisine is on the same level. For me, the dishes are not as fresh (not to imply that it's stale but no revelatory fresh garbanzo moments), as tasty, or as skillfully prepared.

          2. Thanks for this. My last visit (quite some time ago) was a little lackluster and I was fearing that they were spreading themselves too thin and not paying attention. So I shall give it another go, it's about time. And I love to sit at the charcuterie bar there - yep, I've become a 'bar seat diner'!