Sunday Tapas Dinner

sunday_dinner3

I know, I know. Tapas are so over.  But that doesn’t make them less fun to eat out doors.  To celebrate the coming of summer, we had our first outdoor dinner of the year. Well, maybe not really our first since we did have a barbecue a few weeks ago, but one of our first.

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Will made most of the food. I contributed by making, breaking, and then fixing an aioli for the potatoes.  For dinner, we had patatas bravas (from this Serious Eats recipe that uses the bravas part loosely), marinated carrots, white bean salad, mushrooms sauteed in white wine, and some random things like cornichons, roasted red peppers, olives, and a hunk of cheese for me.

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For dessert, we had something so simple but so good. Figs and apricots broiled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Broiled apricots are amazingly good! They taste like super concentrated apricots.

Barbrix (Silver Lake)

Barbrix is one of the latest restaurants to follow the small plates trend. On a Saturday night, it was crowded, loud, and there were several parties waiting for a table. Luckily, the BF made reservations, so we didn’t have very long to wait. Our party of four was seated at a small table that would be cozy even for a party of two. It was a full house that night.

Barbrix

We ordered the spring farro salad, which could be made vegan by leaving out the cheese. I’m by no means a big fan of peas, but the fresh peas in this dish were delicious. They didn’t have the unpleasant starchy taste that frozen peas have. The farro was cooked well with the ideal amount of chewy plumpness. The BF commented that the salad needed more oil because it was a bit dry, but I thought it was fine.

Barbrix

We also got in an order of mixed Spanish olives, which were fantastic. These olives were briney without being overly salty. Each bite was like a powerful flavor explosion in my mouth. I’d rank these olives in my top 5 list of good olives. I’m also a garlic fiend, so I appreciated the sweet cloves of garlic thrown in.

Barbrix

I ordered a goats milk cheese, which was tasty but nothing to rave over. I did enjoy the dried fruit and jam-like spread that came with it.

Barbrix

The next dish, fried sweetbreads, were ordered on accident because one member of our party didn’t actually know what sweetbreads were. It was a happy accident for me because I happen to like all sorts of strange offals. These were small tender pieces, battered and fried. To the unknown eye, they could easily have been mistaken for small chicken tenders or even fried calamari. The fried sweetbread tasted good and was extremely tender, but at the $6 price, the serving could have been larger.

I thought it was funny that we ate about three larger pieces before the server came by, about to take the dish away, thinking we were done. I guess the server thought the remaining pieces, more aptly called crumbs, were too small to eat.

Barbrix

Next came the farmer’s plate, which was presented wonderfully. The baby carrot, endive, and broccollini looked like pieces of art. What I thought was odd was that considering that most people share small plates among the table, this dish was hard to divvy up. What if three people really liked carrots? I guess they’d have to cut the already small carrot into tiny pieces.

Barbrix

The shrimp and chickpea flour tortillas were an interesting combination. It tasted like shrimp was cut into small pieces and then mixed into the batter. These should be eaten as soon as they’re made because they were quick to go soft and soggy. I’m always a fan of chickpea flour flatbreads (also known as socca), so I thought this was a good way to dress it up.

Barbrix

One of my favorite dishes of the night was the roasted Alaskan halibut with tomato salsa and capers. The strong flavor of the capers and salsa was a good pairing to the white fish. I’ve never had capers with fish before, but it’s a good match. The fish was even cooked to a perfect done-ness, which is something that I’m unfortunately picky about. I believe the fish was served on a bed of asparagus and Israeli couscous, but really, the star of the dish was the fish.

Barbrix

The duck confit was a disappointment. The duck was spiced well and the scalloped potatoes it was served on were decadent and delicious. The leg just didn’t taste like a duck confit. There was no richness from fat that’s characteristic of a good duck confit. The meat was just kind of dry. If it had been called another name, it wouldn’t have been such a let down.

Barbrix

The roasted cauliflower salad also could have been better. The roasted cauliflower had a great sweetness from roasting. The green beans were crispy and sweet, but I’m still not used to eating them so undercooked. The chickpeas were what dragged this dish down. They tasted like they came straight from a can. The salad would have been better if the chickpeas had just been left out.

Barbrix

Luckily, the skirt steak was miles better than the canned chickpeas. It was cooked to my preferred medium, although others at the table thought it was too pink for a medium. The meat was tender, juicy, and just plain delicious. Nothing more needs to be said about a perfect piece of steak.

Barbrix

The lamb chops we ordered came plated with a pleasant presentation. One piece was tougher than the other, which is a consistency issue, but if the restaurant could always serve lamb that tasted like the better piece, I’d call that a success. The artichoke chips worked well as garnish, but the pieces were so small, I don’t know if I even tasted them. The eggplant caviar on the bottom of the meat tasted good, but didn’t look good. We had a hard time figuring out what it was because it looked like someone chewed up meat and just spit it in a wad on the plate. I’m not sure where the caviar part came in because it didn’t have the consistency of caviar.

Barbrix

The treviso salad was a dish that both looked good and tasted good. The colorful red, green, and orange components made me glad that summer was here. Some people don’t like the bitterness of radicchio, but it’s not really that bad once you get used to it. Having a bite with a piece of grapefruit and avocado also helps because the sweet acidity cuts down on the bitterness and the buttery finish makes me want more. This dish was a good example of how different textures and flavors can play in harmony with each other.

Dinner at Barbrix was good despite a few shortcomings. It’s so loud and crowded in there that it’s not a place I’d recommend going to on a weekend night if you want to have long conversations with people. The food quality was what I expected although some of the portions were smaller than I would have liked. It’s good that the restaurant offers vegetarian and vegan options on the menu, but omnivores get a better deal on the dishes. It’s nice to have this place so close in the neighborhood, but I think for small plates, my favorite place is still AOC.

Barbrix
2442 Hyperion Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 662-2442
[map]
Barbrix in Los Angeles

Review: AOC

AOC

To celebrate our anniversary, the BF treated me out to a wine and tapas restaurant called AOC. The food is roughly mediterranean and comes out in small dishes to be shared with the whole table. The space itself is sleek and modern while still being cozy and warm. We were seated upstairs in the back room, which ended up being a great idea once the restaurant filled up because the rest of the restaurant was really noisy.
AOC

Upon being seated, the waiter brought out some bread and spread. The black olives that accompanied the harissa spread were delicious. They weren’t overly salty and had a great savory flavor to them. The spread was a bit spicy and smoky, but went well with the olives and bread.
AOC

Our helpful waitress suggested the Valencay Loire Valley goat cheese from France and it was delicious. The rind had a peppery taste, the outer layer of the cheese was creamy and melt-in-your-mouth, and the inside was savory and chalky. It took me a few tries to get used to the inside, but it definitely tastes better with the rest of the cheese. If I could just get a huge chunk of that cheese, some figs and a nice glass of wine, I could eat it all day.
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The BF, an olive fiend, ordered the marinated olives. The small green ones were good and had a fresh spring taste to them, and there was a big one that was stuffed with something like a smaller olive with lots of small seeds in it, which was interesting. I’m still not sure if I like olives yet, but these tasted alright. The really big olives were awkward to eat because the seeds were also large and hard to maneuver out of my mouth.
AOC

The endive salad with fava beans and meyer lemon dressing was refreshing and a fitting spring dish. There could have been more fava beans, but considering how much of a pain they are to shell, I could understand why there were so few. The dish was good, but not that easy to eat because it’s so hard to spear a crunchy endive with a fork.
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I ordered the marinated beet salad with fried chickpeas and feta on the side. The beets were sweet and tender without being too soft. I thought the lighter colored beets were great and not that heavy. The white sauce that came with it was confusing because I couldn’t tell what it added to the dish. It tasted a bit like sour cream, so I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to dip my beets in it or pour it over my salad. The fried chickpeas were great and added a nice crunch to the salad.
AOC

I love fish, but I’m always scared of ordering it at restaurants because I’m used to fish prepared the Chinese way. Despite that, I thought the halibut with bacon, sorrel, and gribiche was delicious. The halibut wasn’t too overdone or dry and the bacon definitely added to its flavor. The fish was topped with chopped sorrel, which gave it a fresh lemony taste without the acidity. It also came with a side of gribiche, which I suppose is a fancy way to say ‘delicious hashbrowns’.
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Then we had some young broccoli, which sounded simple and boring, but was surprisingly good. It looks just like young broccoli cooked with some garlic, but it had a lot of depth to it. It tasted so much more than just broccoli.
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After that came the farro and black rice with pine nuts and currants, which was satisfying and comforting. I thought it was a bit heavy on the pine nuts, but that might be because pine nuts have such a bold flavor. I really liked the farro, which was plump and chewy, and the currants which lent a smoky sweetness to the dish.
AOC

The waitress later suggested the long-cooked cavolo nero, which she described as a black cabbage that tasted like cooked kale. It was an accurate description, but I was surprised when it came out because I had it before in Chinese cooking. In Mandarin, we call it mei gan cai and we usually only get it dried here. It’s soft, but dry at the same time and tastes really earthy. It doesn’t look pretty, but it has a satisfying savory taste to it, like a delicious autumn leaf.
AOC

For dessert, I had almond cake with strawberries, candied rhubarb, and vanilla ice-cream. The almond cake was unexpectedly dense and moist. It tasted great, but I would describe it as more of an almond bar. The rhubarb was good, but since it was my first time having rhubarb, I thought it was a bit weird. It was like a cross between a celery and a tart apple.
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Lastly, the BF had the blood orange sorbet, which was what you would expect blood orange sorbet to taste like: tart, rich, and delicious.

The food at AOC as a whole was good, our wine was good, the cheese was great, and they were accommodating to the BF’s vegan-ness, which is always a nice thing. I wouldn’t mind going there again, maybe for our next anniversary to try some of their other cheeses. I saw that they had something called a Stinking Bishop cheese from England that I’m curious to taste.


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AOC
8022 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 653-6359