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AOC review: last night

silence9 | Feb 16, 200510:54 AM

Hello... As reported yesterday, my dinner companion (an appellation my wife may disdain) and I supped at AOC for the first time. First off, this is a positive review; all went well. I will not dwell on territory previously covered by others if I can help it. Here goes:

We arrived for reservations at 7:00 p.m., with several tables filled and as many unoccupied. Promptly seated. (I would later notice that age range of diners seemed corresponded to passage of time: diners there prior to 7:00 were in their 50s; diners (like us) arriving after 7:00 were in their 30s and 40s; and diners arriving by 9:00 were in their 20s. Conclude on these patterns as you will... Our server (as were all the waitstaff) was polite, professional, and helpful. Wanted to know if we were first timers and if we understood the tapas concept; I did not feel condescended to, and appreciated her attention to interacting with us according to our level of experience. I did notice a *slight* and barely perceptible shift in her attention to us, upon her determination that we would not be ordering wine or alcohol libations of any kind for the duration of the fine meal served. To be fair, as the restaurant filled, she became quite busy and needed to spread her attentions evenly about the space. She remained efficient and pleasant, yet nevertheless toned down in her visits to our table by half. Still, no compaints, really.
Being the piggy-piggies we are, we over-ordered, despite our server's kind admonition to start slow. The two of us ordered 8 small plates, two desserts, and two bottles of mineral water. The pacing of the items selected was just right (over a 2 hour period), and the assisting waitstaff were always attentive to seamlessly remove plates (and bring fresh silverware) once a dish was polished off. We could've easily been satisfied by 6 items and one dessert, but we were determined to plow through a good portion of the menu favorites (and as a matter of record, no left-overs to worry about; we were exemplars of the clean-plate-club).
The goat cheese/dried fig/saba plate was light and a good starter. Could've used a heavier hand on the saba (fig molasses)... To our uneducated palates, the jamon serrano, though good, tasted like prosciutto. Good pale butter came with that and complemented the slices of sour dough... On to a plate of grilled bass with yellow dal and mint chutnet; good but underspiced (a common theme throughout the meal; I opined to the wife that as they were a wine bar, they might under spice/season the plates so as not to intrude on the tastebuds of discerning wine palates)... Next, grilled skirt steak with roquefort butter. Enjoyable, but would not re-order next time. As a matter of fact, the fish and meat selections seem a bit unnecessary in my opinion, as several of the other item categories contain meat and fish... The next two items were from the wood-burning oven and were perhaps our favorites: the brioche with gruyere/prosciutto/egg, and the arroz negro with squid and saffron aioli; as others mentioned, rich and satisfying; enough said... Oh, and I forgot to mention those fine dates stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon; we liked it mightily and they appear easy to make at home. 6 to a portion and salty/sweet... Dessert was the excellent myer lemon ice cream pie with gingersnap crust; and a hazelnut cake soaked with browned butter and sided with maple cream and cinnamon ice cream; detected total lack of cinnamon, but the maple cream was right on point. Would try other desserts next time... Over all, the meal was just fine, but there is one caveat: in the flurry of small plates coming and going, be sure to carefully take note of what the assisting servers set down before you. On three separate occassions, someone else's small plates were set at our table, which we simply had the server take back. As for what we did order and what arrived, it was all good... Also, we were rather over-dressed for AOC. Elegant blazers and chic dresses definitely not necessary here. Lots of jeans and sheer blouses present, which is fine. Next time, I'm wearing me kilt ;-). Total bill for eight small plates, two desserts, and 2 bottles of mineral water: $125, before tip. Totally worth every cent. We'll be back. But its grapefruit and wheat grass for me, for the next week. Chow...

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