Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another Visit to A.O.C.

8022 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048-4307
(323) 653-6359

Because A.O.C. calls itself a wine bar, I will lead with the wine. We pulled into A.O.C. the other night after running some errands south of the 10, and for the first time that I can remember there was serendipitously room for two at the bar. I ordered directly from the special flights a trio of whites from the Lompoc wine ghetto just north of us in Santa Barbara county. These whites were deliciously summery. Fruit forward, and not too sweet. I actually liked them best in order rather than progressively. The Palmina Tocai Firulani was my favorite.

Le Journal du Vine did a thorough tasting/journaling in the Lompoc ghetto a couple years back. Based on these wines, I would definitely hit that region for a convenient and low budget weekend tasting.

The menu at A.O.C. continues to excite. In the mood for veggies and fish, there were too many selections to choose from. I wished we were dining with more people. Shrimp, salmon, trout and mussels, it all looked delicious. In advance, please excuse the iPhone pics. Making an attempt to be spontaneous, I headed out without my camera. I am sure even with my G9 the pics would have been mediocre due to the very yellow mid range light quality. The lighting at A.O.C. is really not interesting for food shots.

Food wise, we were jump started with simple white crusty bread and a pepper tapenade. The texture and flavor felt and tasted like roasted bell peppers with something spicy (red pepper flakes maybe?) and lots of rich olive oil. I am not a huge fan of the bell pepper, but D gobbled this down and decreed it yummy.

D has transformed overnight in a pâté eater. From the charcuterie menu for an hors d'ouevres, he ordered us chicken liver crostini with pancetta. Fancy! Atop two long slices of slightly oily grilled bread, the chicken pâté was spread generously and topped by a bacony piece of pancetta with the entire dish topped with lightly dressed frisée. This was probably my favorite dish of the night. I am, of course, a fan of organ meat anyway. This one was a nice rendition, not as fatty as my favorite chicken liver mousse at BLT, and I was thrilled to watch the order for pâté generate from my manly dining companion.

I do love the way food comes out of the kitchen at A.O.C. We ordered one-for-one in terms of course, they came out nevertheless one-by-one to share instead of side by side. Enforced sharing. I like it. The service at A.O.C. is always so good, I am sure they would deliver the food however you ask for it. Above is the requisite summertime heirloom tomato and burrata salad with balsamic and crunchy croutons with broad flat leaf parsley. Ubiquitous that night, this flat leaf parsley was a delicious addition to several items we noshed on. Big herbaceous flavor from those broad flat leaves. This salad, and the one to follow, in my opinion were a little overdressed. With delicious burrata, summertime heirlooms fat and ripe, and all that parsley, dressing should be a slight addition to the flavor not so overpowering.

My salad came out second. Beets with feta, cucumbers and yogurt. I cannot resist savory food with yogurt, and I liked this combo. The yogurt was hiding on the bottom of the dish, so I found myself really scooting things around to evenly coat each beet with cumminy spiced Persian yogurt. The cukes were almost an afterthought in the dish because they were sliced tiny...I think I kind of avoided them. Cucumbers and feta are a winning flavor combination though, and this dish left the bar clean.

Later we shared a carafe of something wonderful. I have no clue what it was, D would remember but he's asleep. I do love a carafe.

My entree was the humongous Gulf shrimp with tomato butter and cornbread. It sounds better in theory than it actually was. At both A.O.C. and Hungry Cat, although I know they are cheffed by different people, there is a tendency toward serving shellfish in their exoskeletons. Removing the proteins from the shell themselves, clients are treated to an experience both sophisticated and earthy. While I am not the most sophisticated person on the planet, I am not the earthiest either. The times I ate at Killer Shrimp I ordered my shrimps shelled for the extra couple clams. I prefer my arthropods sans shells. The tomato butter did not taste as saturated with tomatoeyness as I thought it would, and the effect was greasier than I had imagined.

Again, the yummy flat leaf parsley. Mediterranean style, A.O.C.'s food is not known for being light. There are certainly light choices on the menu, but I found 3/5 of the plates we ate to be overly oily or overtly greasy. The flavors in the shrimp dish were good, just not great. I liked the grilled crispy cornbread but sitting in the tomato butter it absorbed a lot of fat. The small piece of cornbread was pretty much drenched by the time it hit my lips, which compromised some of the grittiness I love in a cornbread.

The last dish of the evening was conversely quite dry. Halibut with salt cod, underneath there somewhere, sorrel and garlic. This dish was good, but the fish itself was rather dry. I would have liked a little more salt cod to squish around with the halibut. Flavors were nice though.

It was a treat to eat casually at the bar at A.O.C. , despite the aggressive "young attorneys mating conversation" in my left ear and one aggressive attorney elbow continually knocking my arm and fleshy breast region. The seats to their left were empty. What is it about property west of La Brea that makes people stand their ground at bars so firmly? It's a strange phenomena oft noted by myself and constantly present company. Some day I am going to have words with someone about how easy and polite it is to share space when there is space available.

At any rate, the times I have been to A.O.C. previously we always planned ahead, got a reservation, ate at a table and the bar was always packed out. This week the bartenders attended to us beautifully in temperament and service. I also really enjoyed the wine list, thank goodness being that this is a wine bar. There are so many selections to choose from at several price levels. I highly prize this at any restaurant and especially at self-proclaimed wine bars. The food could have been better, but nothing could be called bad per se. I just don't think I will hurry across town to eat at A.O.C. again soon with so many other offerings in my immediate neighborhoods both springing up and thriving. But it was a treat to visit again and find things still very much the same as the last visit.


Kristine G said...

Can I crawl into your clutch and dine with you and your dashing water sommelier? :) Purty please?

streetgourmetla said...

Cool, Palmina, great Italian varietals.I love the wine ghetto.Let's go some time.

Marie said...

I like chicken livers a lot, too. In fact, now I can't stop thinking about getting my hands on some! AOC is one of those places I feel like I should've been to ages ago. Alas, I have not, but the promise of this pate is very motivating.