Chowhubby and I went to AOC last night for my birthday. It was our first time there, had been highly anticipated, and it exceeded expectations.
(My birthday celebration started last weekend in Vegas - see the Southwest board for my already-posted long writeup of Circo and the chef's table at Emeril's. The celebration continues this weekend into next week, with Pascal in OC on Saturday and Grace next Tuesday...both for the first time. What can I say, it was a big birthday and who would turn down all the great dinners!)
We had a reservation for 7:30 but had to change it at the last minute to 8:00, since there was a traffic jam of apocalyptic proportion which threw off the planned timing of the entire evening. They were very accommodating about the last minute change, which was made at around 6:15 when it became clear that 7:30 was not in the cards. Then, the first table they gave us was upstairs and I was freezing cold notwithstanding the heat lamps, so the same hostess who had changed the reservation on the phone very graciously took us back downstairs. We waited at the bar for about 10 minutes, ordered a glass of wine each, and then we were given one of the best tables in the restaurant, sitting side-by-side, backs against the front wall facing into the main room. Two excellent examples of hospitality ruling the day. Also, they didn't ask us to settle up at the bar before going to the table, which was a nice touch. We later tipped the bartender separately and that's included in the total price below.
What the two of us had:
Coppa platter with coppa, soppressata, and another salami called, I think, cacciatorini (not sure of the spelling on the last two). We opted for this rather than the charcuterie platter because the latter had chicken liver mousse which I just can't abide. Plus we're fiends for salami. Thin slices fanned out on a platter, served with a little crock of sweet butter and some bread. Delish.
Salad of persimmon, pomegranate, arugula and pine nuts. At least, the menu said pine nuts but the salad contained almonds with nary a pine nut. A little disconcerting but a tasty and interesting salad nonetheless.
Brioche with gruyere, prosciutto, frisee and a fried egg on top, served open faced with the cheese melted onto the toasted brioche, then the frisee, then the prosciutto, then the egg. Rich, savory, so delicious, like the best bacon and egg sandwich you've ever had but amped up 1000% in taste and texture.
Those sweet/salty/savory nuggets of joy known as dates with parmesan and bacon that y'all have been writing about. We ordered it because it's so highly lauded among the hounds. And boy, are those little critters some of the best things we've ever popped into our mouths! Yum!
One cheese, a French cow's milk cheese. I forget which. We asked the server which of the cheeses on the list was "the best right now" and let him choose. Very nice.
One dessert, a date tart with date sugar ice cream. I'm a total ice cream freak, and this was very unusual and enjoyable, with little hunks of sugar and a nice subtle date flavor. The tart was more like a cross between a tart and a pie, un-tartlike in that it had a top crust and also was much deeper than the usual shallow tart, but the crust itself was more tart than pie, richer and sweeter than a pie crust. The date filling was sort of swirled with crust in-between. It's hard to accurately describe it but I would order it again.
Three glasses of red wine - a Shiraz, a Pinot Noir/Syrah blend, and a Rioja.
Total cost: $100 including tax and tips.
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