As a regular visitor to the USA, I have the opportunity to sample the best and the worst of U.S. cuisine. I have found the portions in some restaurants are so huge, I either skip starters or share with companions before moving on to the entrees, which I also frequently share! For me this takes some of the pleasure out of dining, and of course to eat these portions simply piles on the weight. It doesn't surprise me at all that the country has such an obesity problem.
On a recent visit to stay with my son and his family in Los Angeles, I was pleasantly surprised to find 'normal portions' so I gladly tucked into some delicious dishes.
My son insisted that we sample the 'small plates' restaurant - a.o.c. (Appellation d'Origine Controlee) which had recently moved to Third Street in Mid Town L.A. This is one of three restaurants owned by L.A.'s renowned restaurateurs, Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne, so if a.o.c. is a sample, I'll be back to try the others on my next visit. I would add that in addition to the small plates, diners can also order platters to share.
a.o.c. offers an open dining and drinking area and has an amazing terrace, so we tried to pull strings for a last minute table there. Our evening began at the long communal bar, sampling delicious cocktails, including a "Pistachio Colada" which I'm told is the no. 1 cocktail in town. It's good but I prefer the "Trocadero", which apparently contains gin, marmalade, white vermouth, lime and port, ouch!!
Time to Eat
When the table was ready, we headed for the terrace which seats as many as 70. It's a wonderful space with trees and foliage and perfect for the LA evening temperatures. The atmosphere buzzed and so in comfort, we studied the menu which was mouth watering to read.
There's an excellent cheese and charcuterie selection, olives and bread and marcona almonds. We started with bacon-wrapped dates, punctured and filled with a sliver of parmesan and chicken liver crostini. We also ordered the focaccia with braised leeks that were unbelievable, goat cheese and pancetta all devoured and washed down by a fine wine – there are 150 to choose from and I noted 24 by the glass, an excellent range, and all curated by Caroline Styne.
Moving on to sample more delicacies, we decided to share the small plates but as I mentioned the platters are excellent if you can agree to which you would like to share. The clams from the wood oven were delicious, soaked in a sherry sauce with green garlic, as was the arroz negro, the famous black rice of Valencia with squid and saffron aioli.
Goin has her signature dishes too, one worth tasting is dark Kale soaked in olive oil, she doesn't falter here either. One of her more recent dishes, a departure from the Mediterranean flavours of the menu, is suckling pig with coconut rice, which was inspired by a trip to Bali, and will transport you there.
There is so much to choose from and all lovingly created and prepared by one of L.A.'s finest chefs.
If you happen to be in Los Angeles and looking for a Tapas Bar with a difference, book lunch or dinner on the terrace at a.o.c. and don't forget to sample the amazing cocktails and desserts.