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A.O.C. Los Angeles

Although their first restaurant, Lucques, earned partners Caroline Styne and Suzanne Goin a loyal following (and made Goin an F & W Best New Chef in 1999) they decided not to copy the formula with A.O.C. (named after the French wine designation Appellation d’Origine Controlee). “A.O.C. is more urban, architectural and Euro-style than Lucques,” explains Styne, the restaurant’s wine director. It also features a charcuterie and cheese bar. What’s true of both restaurants is the proprietors’ passion for wine — at affordable prices. At A.O.C. there are 23 wines for $7 or less by the glass and dozens of bottles under $50. “I wanted a well-priced list,” says Styne, who features wine from innovative producers from around the world, such as the 2001 Palacios Remondo Rioja ($23). She pairs it with Goin’s arroz negro (black rice) with squid and saffron aiolo because it has “a spiceness that clicks with the spiciness of the dish.” The star of this year’s crop of new restaurants is clearly A.O.C.

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