July 02, 2017

A.O.C. Wine Bar

Any friend of mine
knows that I'm a big fan of wine.

So whenever I'm on the Westside (near Cedars-Sinai and the Beverly Center), I try to stop by the lovely restaurant that is A.O.C.  The great thing about A.O.C. is that it offers a wide variety of delicious wine with delectable food in an atmosphere that is both romantic and refreshing.  And the new/not-so-new location is absolutely gorgeous.  I may be a bit impartial though, because I love the Lucques Restaurant Group (i.e., Lucques, Tavern, and The Larder Baking Co.), brought to us by the James Beard award winner, Chef Suzanne Goin and James Beard nominated restauranteur, Caroline Styne -- two fabulous women whom LA is blessed to have.

Main entrance.

Steps to the 2nd level dining area.

The restaurant's second floor has a charming, more intimate where you dine surrounded by bottles and bottles of wine.

AOC is a great brunch, happy hour, and/or a romantic dinner option for folks who enjoy a delicious meal in a beautifully-decorated and comfortable setting.  Family-style, shared plate dining is highly encouraged.  Thank you, Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne for your continued devotion of ensuring that Angelenos are well-fed!

Grilled blueberry bread with lemon butter

Famous Bacon-wrapped figs stuffed with parmesan

Spanish Fried Chicken & cornmeal waffle with jamon butter and syrup.

Meyer Lemon French Toast with strawberry, candied lemon slices, and pistachios.

Duck Confit hash with potatoes, spinach, and eggs scrambled.

Grilled asparagus with polenta, roasted veggies, and soft-boiled egg.

Classic steak & eggs with a side of spinach.

cuisine: American
location: Beverly Grove (near the Beverly Center)
hours: M-F: 11:30am-11pm; Sat-Sun: 10am-11pm [Sundays and Mondays close at 10pm]
websites: {AOC | yelp | facebook | instagram | twitter }
attire: Casual/Trendy
recommendations: Not necessary, but recommended
suggestions: Bacon-wrapped dates and the bread.

January 16, 2017


In 2017, I'm aiming for minimalism.  Less is more.  Because you don't need a ton of things to be accomplished or lead impressive lives.  This is a lesson I learned from Baroo when I dined there over a year ago.  And while this post is long overdue, I have a strong feeling the innovative and creative minds behind Baroo have not changed this theme, even with Chef Kwang Uh on indefinite hiatus in Korea.  

A table of Korean gentlemen appreciating innovative Korean cuisine.

Baroo, now enjoying national acclaim, is located in an unassuming strip mall off of Santa Monica Boulevard.  There is one table and the rest is bar seating, that is, if you can manage to find a free seat in the hole-in-the-wall establishment.  At the time of my visit, they didn't even have a website, but that has since changed.  You'll see many cookbooks and (I'm guessing) vegetables (or is it kombucha?) fermenting in various-sized jars.  Despite the somewhat experimental and minimalist ambience, the food is beautifully presented and even with some unusual pairings, surprisingly refreshing and unique.  Best of all, it felt like high-class dining in a hidden gem -- special, indeed.

Bibim Salad -- grains (oat, bulgar, quinoa), vegetable crudite (thinly shaved fennel, celery, asparagus, baby radish, heirloom carrots), toasted seeds (sunflower and pumpkin), gochujang, tomato dressing, herbs, coulis, Asian pear, passion fruit powder -- $9 (Vegan)

Kimchi Fried Rice -- pineapple-fermented kimchi, amira basmati rice, sous vide egg, gremolata, pineapple jalapeno salsa, purple potato chips, roasted seaweed, toasted buckwheat and quinoa, and micro greens -- $9 (Gluten-free, Vegan)

Baroo's Ragu-Style -- handmade pasta with spicy oxtail faux ragu, tendon puff, gochujang, gremolata with cherry tomatoes, aged parmigiano reggiano -- $15

Classic Shortbread -- 84% butter cacao nibs with citrus bursts -- $2

With each bite, you find yourself recognizing a familiar taste countered by something new.  The ingredients are familiar, but the taste is unique in a way that makes you want to try more.  All this to say, this type of food may not be for everyone, or may be for you when you're in that creative mood/ not ravenously hungry (food is not entirely filling).  But for those who appreciate innovation and can tolerate Korean fusion, visit Baroo.

cuisine: New American with strong Korean influence (fusion)
location: East Hollywood (Wilton + Santa Monica)
hours: Sun-Mon: closed; Tues-Sat: noon-3pm; 5pm-9pm
websites: { Baroo | facebook | instagram | twitter }
attire: Casual
notes: No reservations and no sign.  There's a 7-11 next door and a small parking lot.
other: Bon-Appetit article | JGold review

Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee

While people are resolving to consume less sugar, less carbs, less calories, I'm continuing to champion one of my favorite breakfast (lunch, dinner, and/or dessert) items: the doughnut, aka - donut.  Glazed, sprinkled, cereal-topped, baconized, twisted, jelly/cream-filled, cake, crumb, bruleed, whole, hole -- you name it, I eat it.  Thankfully, LA is home to a multitude of doughnut shops.  But if I'm ever on the Westside (specifically, Santa Monica), Sidecar is a must.

Doughnuts + Stumptown coffee = a piece of heaven on Earth

Their claim to fame is probably the Huckleberry, a huckleberry cake doughnut with huckleberry glaze.  For those unfamiliar with huckleberry, the huckleberry is akin to the blueberry and is the state fruit of Idaho).  As you can see below, each doughnut is handled with care.

Huckleberry -- $3.50.  It tastes as good as it looks.  

Cinnamon Crumb Cake -- a classic cinnamon cake doughnut with a slightly sweet and spicy cinnamon glaze -- $2.75

An obligatory cup of Stumptown coffee for a perfect pairing.

Sidecar has certainly stepped up the doughnut game in Santa Monica, but like most things on the Westside, be willing to shell out a couple of extra bucks above what you would normally pay for a doughnut.  That said, you'll be in for a delicious doughnut made with quality ingredients.  Plus, in addition to their regular flavors, they offering some interesting flavors on a monthly rotation.  So do I recommend Sidecar doughnuts?  The answer is always yes.

cuisine: Doughnuts
location: Santa Monica
websites: { Sidecar | yelp | instagram | facebook | twitter }
hours: Daily, 6:30am - 4pm, except on Fridays and Saturdays, they're open until 9pm.
attire: Casual
parking: Small lot behind the store or street meters
other notes: If you're craving Sidecar while in Orange County, you're in luck!  You can check them out at their original location in Costa Mesa.