A.O.C. is A-OK except for the loud music

There was a time, not too long ago, when I’d have to beg my friends to eat with me at interesting restaurants–to not do the Olive Garden or whatever restaurants most people our age eat at and try something different, new, and maybe more expensive than they wanted to pay. There was a time when they thought this web site was weird, that my infatuation with food was just a phase and that my taking pictures of food was a nuisance. But then, over time, as this web site gained in acclaim and as I was on CNN for making a breast cupcake, the tables turned a bit. Now my friends cater to my every whim. Well. Ha. No. But they’re more likely to defer to me for dinner.

So on Saturday night, when Lisa and I had plans, it wasn’t like I said, “We must eat where I want to tonight or the friendship ends!” It was more like we were figuring out what to do and I said, “Wanna try something interesting for dinner?” and she said, “Sure.” I suggested we go down to Bleecker street and walk around. (Reminder: Bleecker Street in the West Village is my favorite food zone in New York.) My secret destination was August but when we got there it was packed and the menu was too meaty for Lisa. So we ended up here, at A.O.C.:

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A.O.C. is a French acronym for…I defer to the world wide web which offers this definition via the A.O.C. L.A.’s web site: “The Appellation d’Origine Controlee or (A.O.C.) applies to wines, eaux-de-vie, dairy and farmhouse products. It guarantees that a product of quality has been produced within a specified region following established methods of production. The AOC is regulated by laws, the first of which was the Law for the Protection of the Place of Origin of May 6th, 1919.”

See the research I do for you people? The nice thing about A.O.C. Saturday night was that it wasn’t terribly crowded. We were seated (yay, I didn’t say sat) right away at a booth near the front. The menu is pretty big with lots of options for everyone at the table. The waitress asked if we wanted bottled water or sparkling water and we said tap water. She gave us a look. Then she asked if we were ordering drinks. Lisa ordered a diet coke, I was going to wait and order wine with my entree. Lisa’s diet coke came in a bottle and Lisa HATED that. “Ugh,” she said because she prefers tap, as most people do. This, I argued, was more European but that did little to assuage her.

We shared an awesome–and I mean awesome–appetizer: “Croustillant de Chevre: Phyllo Pastry Filled with Goat Cheese & Spinach over a Spinach Salad.”

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I told Lisa I thought this was an A+ appetizer. “It’s really good,” she agreed. I loved the crispness of the phyllo and the creaminess of the goat cheese and the greenness of the salad. It was a triumph of flavors! (They can put that on their billboard.)

But at this moment in time–and as is hinted at by the title of this post–the music was blaring in our ears. It was loud to begin with but it kept getting louder and louder. There must’ve been a speaker right over our table because we were drowned in noise. We totally couldn’t hear each other and, a bit fed up, we asked the waitress really nicely if they could lower it. “I’ll have to ask the bartender,” she said, “It’s part of the ambience.”

The ambience is death by sound? But it did, I suppose, get quieter over time. That was my least favorite aspect of the meal.

But the food was terrific, I’m not going to lie. My entree was “Cotes d’Agneau: Tender Lamb Shank cooked with Rosemary, Polenta and Seasonal Vegetables”:

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The meat was so tender I didn’t need the knife, just flaked it all off with a fork. And it had wonderful flavor helped by the winey, sweet and potent sauce. At this moment in time, I asked for a glass of wine. I wanted a red and chose a $7 Côtes du Rhône (like my fancy symbols?). The waitress said she recommended the $10 version. I said, “That’s ok, I’ll stick to the $7.” I’m not a wine maven and I felt pretty sure I wouldn’t taste the difference between the $7 and the $10. “The $10 is better,” she said. She wasn’t leaving. This was awkward. “No, thanks, just the $7 one please.” (We were actually using the names of the wines, not the prices, but that was what was implied.) She left reluctantly and I thought poorly of that experience. When the wine came, it was fine and I enjoyed it with my lamb.

Lisa had Risotto with arborio rice, truffle oil (I’m getting this from menupages.com), mushrooms, vegetables, paremsan, and aged balsamic:

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She enjoyed hers a great deal but couldn’t finish it because, as we all know, risotto is very filling. She took the rest home and I encouraged her to make arancini like I did last week.

The bill came and it wasn’t unreasonable for all the delicious food we’d eaten. Usually I like restaurants with adventurous unusual cuisine, but this was just standard French food (minus the risotto) prepared extremely well. We liked it. And next time I bully my friends into eating out, maybe we’ll go here again and sit away from the speakers, making sure to order $7 glasses of wine.

7 comments

  1. A.O.C. is one of my “favorite” restaurant recommendations when friends and family ask me where to eat when they are visiting NYC. On a nice warm day, you need to sit out on the back patio. I love it back there because you almost forget you are in the city.

  2. The wine up-sell sounded a little passive-aggressive for my liking.

    I had to laugh at your restaurant visit influences. I have some friends now who try and wow me with great restaurants I must try with them and photograph as well!

  3. What is it with swanky places and their deafening “ambiance”?

    There’s this place in Bloomington called The Scholar’s Inn – a very nice bistro situated in an old Victorian house on a hill. They have an extensive wine list, very good food, and half-priced martinis on Thursdays.

    Given that I’m allergic to alcohol in the same way that some people are allergic to peanuts or shellfish, I just go for the socialization and the ambiance. But over the past few months, I’ve noticed that the music has become louder and louder… causing people to speak louder and louder… until we all regret not having taken ASL classes.

  4. So many up-sells with the waitress! I really hate when they try to force bottled water on you. Good for both of you for sticking with tap.

  5. OK, maybe she was a little aggressive but a good server really will tell you the truth. Next time, ask for a taste of both of the offered wines and make your decision based on that, wine man or no.

  6. yeah, but you shouldn’t have to reiterate your choice three times. plus, her tactic has the result of potentially making the customer feel like a cheap-ass, which, even if it’s true, is a feeling nobody likes. next time, order what you want. i mean, you’re eating, right? and you’re paying, right? you get the final word.

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