RESTAURANT REVIEW: AOC for Vegetarians
[In the interest of full disclosure, our good friend is a pastry cook at AOC, so yes; we got special treatment & a discount (& a tour of the kitchen!).]
Stepping off the rue we pass into the restaurant through a high and substantial portal -immediate sign that this will be an experience of elevating quality.
We find our way through the main dinning room, a lofty vault with exposed dark wood and balancing mellow clay colored walls, through subtly laid tables past the bar – where dining reservations are not required. There are three rooms in all, an upstairs patio, and a smaller room in the wing of the main dinning room. Here our party of six took up a booth near a deeply inset window that soared the distance up into the rafters, and we began to absorb the menu.
This was easily done with the aid of the timely application of bruscetta with harissa and olives. Toasted slivers of baguette brushed with olive oil and fresh herbs, a spread made of roasted Ancho chilies, and small dark French olives.
Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc 2001. A bright medium red – supple, creamy, but still juicy. This Napa wine from a family winery in St. Helena, California was so refreshing and flavorful we had to order a carafe to follow the bottle we shared. The wine list was extensive and priced fairly. Bottles ranged from $20 - $400.
We also enjoyed a cheese platter (normally "five cheeses" for $20 - we received a special array of 6 varieties, plus "accompaniments" which included dried figs, walnuts, quince paste, and Meyer lemon paste). Overall, the cheese was amazing, the arrangement was beautiful and thoughtful, we could have had only the cheese and been totally satisfied.
*Le Petit Fiancé Pyrénées France —like a goat version of a Brie, but smoky, my favorite.
*Romao La Mancha Spain —an aged hard cheese, framed with dried herbs, drizzled with olive oil, great with the meyer lemon paste.
*Sfizio Pecorino Crotonese Lazio Italy
*Robiola di Bosco Lombardy Italy
*Soumaintrain Burgandy France —like Brie, creamy, full flavored.
*Roaring Forties Tasmania, Australia — yummy stuffed into a dried fig.
The Avocado, Schaner Farm citrus and green olives Salad ($8) was fresh and tart, a nice transition to the small-plate main course. The waitress recommended 2-3 plates per person--we were all very satisfied with 2 each.
From the wood-burning oven:
*cauliflower, curry and red vinegar ($7)
*artichokes, blood orange and house-smoked ricotta ($9) —a really great combo of different flavors and textures—mild, creamy ricotta with salty olives.
*brioche with prosciutto, gruyere and egg ($13) —I could eat this everyday for breakfast. The brioche was swimming in melted gruyere, a layer of frise, then a perfectly soft cooked sunny-side-up egg on top. I didn’t feel that I was missing out by not having the prosciutto because the dish was already so salty and smoky.
and more food...
*white and green asparagus with pistachio maltaise ($12) —white asparagus is always tough to eat, but the presentation was beautiful, and the sauce was buttery.
*english peas, snap peas and saffron butter ($8) —I’m a sucker for peas. Lightly cooked pea shoots were also in the mix. Bright yellow butter sauce, bright green peas were a visual delight, however there was almost too much butter.
*farro and black rice with pinenuts and currants ($7) —hearty and sweet, very satisfying.
*steamed fingerlings with crème fraiche ($7) —If you put crème fraiche on an old shoe, I would eat it, if you put crème fraiche on the cutest little rainbow potatoes, I devour it.
*young broccoli with garlic and chili ($7) —classic combo, but a little too simple for $7.
l*ong-cooked cavolo nero ($7) —"cavolo nero" translates to "black cabbage" and is similar to kale and oh so tasty. Somehow they made the greens crispy, juicy, and meaty all at the same time.
*spring vegetable ragout ($8)—very similar to the English peas dish, next time I wouldn’t get both.
*wild mushrooms persillade ($12)—"persillade" is garlic and parsley chopped finely together. The mushrooms were great. I loved the crispy little breadcrumbs on top.
Desserts (all $7)
*rhubarb crumble tart with buttermilk ice cream —not too sweet, not too tart, the buttermilk ice cream is icy, not creamy, and it goes well with the spoonful of whipped cream cut w/ crème fraiche the tart sits on.
*drop biscuit with gaviota strawberries and soured cream —this is how my mom would make strawberry shortcake, too good.
*meyer lemon fritter with vanilla ice cream and honey —when I see "fritter" I think of something small, but this was a large deep-fried triangle of dough filled with a lemon custard. I’m usually not a big lemon fan, but this was great. The vanilla ice cream was very refreshing.
*rocky road bread pudding with toasted marshmallow —this dessert has been a topic of conversation many times, and I was afraid that I would feel let down after all the buildup, but as soon as the first spoon broke through the crust of toasted marshmallow topping, I knew… An absolute must for chocolate lovers. My favorite aspect was how the brioche was partially disintegrated into pure chocolate in some places, a richness matched only by the rich creaminess of the marshmallow.
The menu changes often, and there are more than enough vegetarian options to warrant several return visits. Bon Appetit –Highly Recommended
8022 W Third St at Crescent Heights Boulevard