Thursday night, 5 of us grazed at the AOC. I had made reservations for 7:45. We had to take a cab from the Hilton LAX. With tip, it was about a $40 cab ride each way (got a van), so between all of us, that wasn't bad. For some reason, I had gotten the idea that AOC was in Beverly Hills. That threw the cab driver off, and me too, cause that wasn't what I had remembered Beverly Hills looking like, so I don't know where we really were.
We arrived on time and were seated promptly downstairs in the second room where there were stairs leading up to I don't know what. It's noisy in there, but not ridiculously so. The folks I was with were from various other parts of the world, and had not spend endless hours researching the restaurants in LA, so they were a bit confused by the menu. Our waitress, who explained she was a bit hard of hearing, did a great job answering questions and making suggestions. I immediately ordered the dates I'd heard so much about along with different wine for everyone. One in our group ordered a bottle, the rest of us did wine by the glass, and we all got something different.
The dates were very tasty. One girl in our group kept saying she wasn't very adventurous ordered a steak because it looked good that someone at the next table had, then proceeded to try (and like) everything that was put on the table. I ordered the clams in sherry, and no one else would touch them but me. Oh darn! One guy ordered salad that had fruit (peaches) in it and pancetta. It looked wonderful and he said it was wonderful, but the rest of us wouldn't know, cause he hogged it to himself. I tasted the speck/arugula salad and wasn't thrilled with that one. Tasted halibut, skirt steak, a very fresh tasting corn dish with lime & cilantro...the best of the meat dishes, imo was a pork dish with figs. The girl that claimed she wasn't adventurous ate half of that before we realized it wasn't the steak she had ordered (she liked it better).
I'm not sure how many plates we ended up ordering, but with six glasses of wine, the bottle of wine and all the plates, the tab (before tip) was just $200! For five people! And we were stuffed. I'm definitely glad we went, and appreciate all the suggestions I got off this board.
The next night there were eight of us and I had made reservations at The Border Grill in Santa Monica. This was NOTHING like I expected. I don't know why. The first thing I noticed was the smell. I don't know what it was, but there was an unpleasant odor to the restaurant, imo. The second thing we noticed was how LOUD it was in there. We waited about 15 minutes for them to "set up our table", even though we had reservations. No problem. We ordered drinks, and five of us got our drinks quickly (which helped us with the chips & salsas and guacamole)...the other three waited and waited. Finally the waiter showed up with their drinks and said they were having a computer problem.
The food was good. I had chili rellenos which were decent. It came with two different types of rice (why?) and beans. Good, but I've certainly had just as good for about half the price elsewhere. My friend who ordered the same thing said her first bite "tasted like the stuff you sprinkle on vomit". Hmmmmmm, not sure what she meant, and I'd rather not think about it too much, but whatever first impression, she was fine with it after that. I think it could have all tied back to the smell of the restaurant. Who knows.
I would not go out of my way to go back there. The AOC yes, Border Grill no.