After many posts and hours of reviewing menus, I finally settled on KOI and AOC for my recent trip to LA. Both were FANTASTIC choices for food and ambience.
AOC is very clean decor, trendy, and lively, but a nice comfortable place to linger over a good meal and have a good conversation. I went on a sunday night, so usually a pretty quite night and had a nice little table near the bar in the front room. I enjoyed the front room, and the people watching in between courses. We ordered the dates, the brioche and egg, the califlower, the faro, and the lamb scewers. The dats were a wonderful way to start the meal and were sweet and flavorful, but a fairly small dish. Not to miss! Also, my mother's favorite, the brioche and egg was perfectly done. You can tell that they have figured out how to cook and season this dish and have totally perfected it. Our least favorite was the cauliflower which was a little over seasoned and over cooked. But still, anywhere else I am sure I would have thought it was great, just not in comparisson to the other dishes here. The faro was my personal favorite, with the cranberries and pinenuts there was a unique blend of flavors and textures and I could not stop pilling it onto my plate (they give a large serving for this one!). Finally, my favorite type of meat is lamb and I was not disapointed by AOCs version. Despite some previous posts, I did not think it was over done at all, and I really enjoyed the sauce that came with it. 5 plates was a perfect amount of food for two women with decent appetites, but we could have just had four (there was some faro and cauliflower left and I was quite full . .). Since I am a dessert fanatic, I insisted on getting desert even though I was quite full. We had the lemon ice cream pie and the black bottom cake, both of which were wonderful, the lemon ice cream pie was definitley my pick of the two. Overall, I really had no complaints with AOC, we also had GREAT service, friendly waiter and plates came at a nice pace. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who wants good food and a trendy scene.
The next night I ate at Koi with my mother and a friend of mine who goes to UCLA. This place was definitely a busier, showier scene than AOC. Lots of tall model types in skimpy outfits and loud talk around the bar area. The decor was gorgeous though, and I thought the scene was a lot of fun. It took a little bit for us to be seated, and because we were hungry we accepted a table in the very front patio. (I later toured the other rooms and I would have chosen to sit on the back patio, but the front patio was perfectly fine and some member of band was sitting out there with us and the photographers went nuts when he walked out later, so i guess the front patio was good enough for him!). Our waitress was very friendly and helpful, maybe she was just in good mood that night but she kept making jokes and giving her suggestions. We had both the tuna and avocado and tuna with crispy rice and they were amazing!!! I could have just eaten those two plates all night long. I also had the yellowtail carpaccio (really good little sauce on it!)and the samon sushi, the fish was obviously of good quality and very fresh. The only thing I was underwhelmed by was the baked crab roll, and after reading review after review of how good it was, I can only assume it was an off night, but to me it was nothing that special. We also had the Kobe filet mignon and the bass. Looking back I wish we had had a couple more small plates instead of the entres cause 1) we were pretty full by the end and 2) the kobe was just normal kobe aka great steak, but it could have been kobe at any other restaurant. The cod was great though, I only which I wasn't so full by the time we got it. Over all the plates came at a good pace, and the food was very well prepared. For dessert we had the sampler platter, I actually think the best part of the dessert were the mochi, i'm getting a little tired of molten chocolate cakes, and the thimbals of chocolate, vanilla, and green tea creme brulee were good but nothing to write home about. The platter also came with bannna bread pudding, or bannana bread something, which I sort of changed my mind on with every bite, but just between good and great, so nothing to complain about. In conclusion, I will be back to koi! I thought the food was great and the atmosphere was soooo much fun and exactly what I am looking for in LA. Both my 20 year old UCLA friend and my 65 year old feminst/lawyer mother loved the place. The combination of high quality fish prepared well and a lively scene are hard to beat!
Also as a side note -- I went to the Ivy for lunch, just because it is a fun thing to do while shopping, as usual it was packed and there were photographers everywhere but the service was good and it was a perfect sunny day to sit on the patio drinking frappe's. The food isnt phenomenal of course, but still quite good. The lobster pasta and grilled cajun shrimp are a couple of my favroties. Oh, and don't pass on the desserts! (their key lime pie is great!)