I've mentioned AOC Bedford frequently enough (either on this site or to whomever will listen) that it seems criminal not to have told you all about it in detail. After dinner on Saturday night, I remembered just how much I love this tiny spot, and how fond I am of Bedford Street in general, especially on a night mild enough to warrant leaving all the windows open, which the restaurant did, spilling itself out onto the street just a little bit.
"A.O.C." is used in France to designate products that have been officially deemed representative of a certain region (sort of like a cru in the wine world); in Spain the designation is D.O. and in Italy it's D.O.C., and basically all that means is that if you see a particular cheese or oil or truffle or whathaveyou prefaced with those initials, it's going to be good. And AOC Bedford has designed their menu around such ingredients.
The menu is straightforward -- it's arranged by the main ingredient, and there is one of everything, meaning there will be a Pasta, a Beef, a Lamb, a Fish, etc. The preparations tend towards the rustic and the simple, and have French, Spanish and Italian influences. The wine list is concise; one of my favorite things about AOC Bedford is actually their cocktail menu, which features what they call "classic" cocktails - my favorite is the grapefruit martini, but people I've eaten with at AOC speak highly of the Old Fashioned. The room is small, with exposed brick and beams, cozy, quaint, blah blah blah charming and romantic and comfortable, all the things I like in a restaurant.
One of my all-time favorite appetizers happens to be a signature dish at AOC -- the octopus carpaccio. It is divine. I crave it. I cannot speak highly enough about it. And, it's beautiful. It comes served on a wide plate, thin cross sections of octopus somehow held together in a large pancake which has been drizzled with the best olive oil I've ever tasted and sprinkled with red pepper and fleur de sel, with toasted bread alongside. Every time I eat at AOC Bedford I have this dish, and Saturday was no exception and I am telling you, if you go: GET THE OCTOPUS. It looks like stained glass when it's served, and I adore it.
I ordered the fish as my entree - the fish dish is almost always a market special; last weekend it was grilled grouper served in a creamy red curry (maybe?) sauce with teeny, delicious asparagus on top. Kevin ordered what is usually my go-to entree at AOC, the duck breast, seared to a crisp and served with vanilla infused mashed potatoes and a wine-poached pair. It is every bit as rich as that sounds...
Our entrees were delicious, as I knew they would be, and the Pinot Gris we drank with our meal was acidic enough to stand up to my cream sauce and Kevin's duck. We ordered the Crepes Suzette for dessert, because if you go to AOC Bedford, you have to order the Crepes Suzette, for the presentation if nothing else; the table side preparation adds a nice bit of drama. (There isn't much of a dessert menu, and I don't believe there is actually a pastry chef, but the creme brulee and crepes are lovely.)
I find everything about AOC Bedford to be perfect; the service is warm but neither fussy nor intrusive, the crowd is usually a nice mix, the food is excellent and the room always, always, always feels welcoming.
One touch that never gets old: the bill is presented with a candle in a pewter candlestick, the edges of the paper burned for a nice aesthetic touch. And! AOC Bedford offers BYOB Mondays during the summer!
It's one of my favorite spots in the city, one I never get tired of. AOC Bedford (212 414 4764) is located at 14 Bedford Street, and offers a 10% discount to diners who pay cash.