Why try one dish for dinner when you can have 5, maybe 6! It’s all about the tapas at A.O.C. Small plates, appetizer style — a good amount is about 2 to 3 plates per person. This place is well known for their amazing wine selection and cheese bar. Imagine some fine wine, a great cheese plate, and charcuterie from the finest. Despite all that goodness, we had an unforgettable dinner here.
With a restaurant named A.O.C., the cheese and wine has to be good. A.O.C. stands for Appellation d’Origine Controlee. These regulations were made in France to determine the quality of certain products like cheese and wine. For a cheese to get an A.O.C. stamp, it needed to meet certain criteria. This type of process can only lead to quality products and good food.
I came here to celebrate my girlfriend’s birthday. We were pretty much the first ones there, and we were seated all by ourselves in the upstairs dining area. It was very peaceful and romantic. It felt like we had the whole place to ourselves with our personal waiter. Los Angeles didn’t exist. The cars, the traffic, and all that noise outside did not exist. It was just us — that was the beauty of it all. Being able to eat some delicious food made it that much more beautiful.
We were served some complimentary bread and harrisa. Harissa is a Tunisian hot chili sauce that is a mix of grounded spices and chilis with oil. The flavor was very rich and complex. It was a bit strong, kind of like mole, and it wasn’t spicy at all. The sauce was very tasty with their sourdough bread — it was something I had never tried before. It definitely was a great start of a wonderful meal.
We ordered the clams with sherry and garlic toast. The broth was wonderful, and soaking the toast in the broth was perfect. These clams were cooked perfectly, and they were very satisfying. We may have over done it with the bread and broth, because we were nearly full from it all.
Next up were the bacon wrapped dates. One order came with so little, but good things come in small packages. The bacon on the outside was crispy and salty, and the dates were so sweet and caramelized perfectly — It tasted like candy. I savored each and every bite. Sadness struck when the last piece of the meaty fruity concoction was swallowed. Little did I know, happiness was just around the corner.
When I think of good dishes, delicious dishes, it has to leave a lasting impression on me. After taking my first bite of the arroz negro with squid, I knew it would stay with me forever. The squid was cooked perfectly and not too chewy — it literally dissolved in your mouth. Though a bit salty, the saffron aoli rounded out the flavors very well. The black squid ink, which I never had before had such depth. I will definitely order this again next time I go to A.O.C.
One of my least favorites was the brioche with prosciutto. The bitter greens on top of the brioche was a bit flavorless. I also couldn’t really taste the Gruyere. The prosciutto and the egg on top was good, but come on, its prosciutto and a runny egg. This one sounded good on paper, but after eating it, I wasn’t really impressed. Maybe if the bread was a buttered sourdough toast and the greens were covered in some sort of vinaigrette, it would have been better.
After our wonderful meal was finished, we were in a hurry to catch our play in downtown. I asked for the check, and they were taking longer than usual. The waiter cleared all of our plates, and scraped our tabled off of all its crumbs. Surprise surprise, they surprised us with a birthday dessert. Nothing but smiles was on my girlfriend’s face, and I was, well, surprised. I had nearly forgotten that I stated we were celebrating a birthday when making the reservations.
Not only does A.O.C. care about the food, they care about the people. They aim to please, and I don’t see how people have a horrible time here. I thank A.O.C. for making us feel special. It was an unforgettable meal, and a great night. And just in case you were wondering, we made it just in time to the theater.