Monday, February 23, 2015

A.O.C. Beverly Hills

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At least one meal of every trip I have taken tends to be over-hyped and underwhelming. A.O.C. in Beverly Hills perfectly fit the bill on this trip. I had read about A.O.C. on EaterLA and when I mentioned it to Martie, she had already made a reservation. Unfortunately, both in terms of service and food, this visit was unable to replicate her previous experience. 
The atmosphere and decor of A.O.C. was lovely. We sat on a covered patio that felt like you were dining at a Mediterranean house in Spain or Greece. But from the outset the service was disappointing. Our waiter seemed both overtaxed and disinterested throughout the duration of the meal. We had to flag him down for drinks and barely saw him after he took our order.  
The menu, however, looked promising with loads of interesting ingredients. Our first dish was a flat bread with lamb bacon, caramalized leeks, and chèvre. We were both intrigued by lamb bacon, but I can now see why it has not caught on. It was missing the salty fatty richness of pork, and the gamey texture of lamb. I was left reminded of deli-style ham. Martie was hoping for a crispier bacon to balance the soft bread. 
I had also been really excited about the arroz negro with calamari and saffron aioli. We had a hung jury on this dish. Martie liked the high acidity of the black rice and the pairing with the calamari. I disliked this dish because of the massive glob of mayonnaise served on top. Sometimes a little aioli can add some richness to a salty dish, but I thought this tasted like Hellmans and was just way too much. I also found the rice to be overly salty and the calamari to be a tad chewy. 

Unfortunately, the one dish I really enjoyed is not pictured. We ate it too fast! Imagine pappardelle topped with soft roasted Tahitian squash (similar to butternut or kabocha squash) and spinach with grated Parmesan and cracked black pepper. 
Next we had cauliflower with curry powder and red wine vinegar. The cauliflower was flavorful, but the size of this dish, compared to the others,  was confusingly large. 
Lastly, we had black cod with roasted carrots and onions. It was topped with a nondescript creme. The roasted vegetables seemed out of place with such a light fish, and would have been better suited to a meatier protein. While the skin of the cod had a nice crispness, the rest of the dish was quite bland. The only saving grace was that the waiter, who had otherwise ignored us for most of the night, noticed our dissatisfaction and offered to take it off the bill. 

For a restaurant that receives such high accolades, we were both surprised by the mediocrity across the board. Thankfully, neither of us were starved for delicious food this week and we knew more excellent meals would be on the way. 


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