Saturday, April 30, 2011

AOC Winebar Review: Sharing Wine and Food with Friends

Last night we went to AOC Winebar on West 3rd Street near West Hollywood for dinner. We had a friend in town who specially requested to try one of Suzanne Goin's restaurant. Out all all of Suzanne Goin's restaurants I've been to, including Lucques, Tavern, AOC, I prefer AOC. It has a great wine list by the carafe as well as by the bottle and the small plates sharing format is more fun with a group as you get to try lots of dishes. Besides, family-style is the Asian way. I've visited over a half a dozen times since it opened in 2002, although I haven't been back in a couple of years. It's always good, although I find some dishes a little heavy and oily, and it isn't cheap, particularly if you order lots of wine, as we usually do.  Last night's experience was consistent with my previous visits. With a party of 5, we ordered a cheese plate with accompaniments (including quince, marcona almonds, fig and date cakes), speck with apples and arugula chicken liver crostini, beet endive kumquat salad, the market fish which was red snapper over risotto, scallops with potatoes chorizo and sherry, pork cheeks with polenta, duck confit with black rice and blood orange, english peas and pea shoots with saffron butter, cauliflower with curry, frozen nougate glace with candied kumquat and meringue with meyer lemon ice cream and blueberry compote.  My favorites were the beet, endive and kumquat salad and perfectly cooked scallops. Her dishes are very rich and flavorful, and I particularly liked the dishes with contrasting and balancing flavors and textures. She uses acid and citrus very deftly to give a nice kick to her dishes. I also like the commitment local and organic ingredients, as I've seen her crates at the Santa Monica farmer's market. Our waitress was very good; one of the better services that I've had in a LA restaurant in awhile. She was attentive and friendly and gave good wine recommendations: a 2009 Luli Pinot Noir from Santa Lucia and a Holus Bolus Syrah from Santa Barbara. We sat at a table next to Will Ferrell who must be quite the wine aficionado; we also saw him last year at Pride Mountain in Napa doing wine tasting. Our booth was a little tight for five people and not really conducive to easy conversation or plate sharing; an actual table would have been better. I don't have many pictures of the food because it was extremely dark in the restaurant, so these are the only ones that came out:
Cheese plate L-R: ossau iraty (always a favorite), triple creme and goat cheese all from France
Nice accompaniments for the cheese plate
Speck, Apple, Arugula Salad
Red snapper over risotto. Hearty and comforting, reminds me of a dish I had in Madrid
Duck Confit over black rice. I quite liked the black rice
AOC Winebar
8022 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA

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