A big restaurant arrives today, June 8, right on Brentwood’s busy San Vicente strip, though admittedly the project is both a bit new and old. This is A.O.C., the Lucques Group project from James Beard award-winning operators Caroline Styne and chef Suzanne Goin, which has taken over the converted Tavern space at 11648 San Vicente Boulevard, and yes, it’s got shades and flavors of the famous Third Street version of A.O.C. in West Hollywood.
Surprisingly enough, its longtime business partners Styne and Goin managed to keep a pretty tight lid on the changes underway at Tavern. Aside from designer Nickey Kehoe, some contractors, and the pair’s husbands, few people knew to expect a new A.O.C. for months. Working undercover on the massive space allowed Goin and Styne to take the time to embrace the things they loved about Tavern while ditching the less functional aspects of the space (and menu).
Goin and Styne started by giving the atrium (and its gorgeous tree) back to the landlord. Inside, they added a wood-burning oven, made the pastry area more efficient by removing the Larder Baking Co. oven, added a whole new patio, and moved seats around so hosts wouldn’t be forced to walk half a city block just to seat customers. “We made our footprint a little bit smaller, but our seating is not far off from what it was,” says Styne. The new restaurant can seat 180 diners at a clip, assuming no COVID-19 protocols.
All of that dining is spread across three connected rooms, each touched with coastal European vibes. The main area is filled with velvet booths, a bar with charcoal wood, banquettes, and communal tables. There’s a second dining room that runs parallel to Darlington Avenue and a private dining room for up to 40 people.
Goin’s seasonal A.O.C. menus will prevail here now, meaning small plate starters like charcuterie boards and housemade focaccia. This week’s menu has the A.O.C.’s beloved Spanish fried chicken with romesco aioli and chili cumin butter, as well as hand-cut noodles with soft shell crab, cherry tomato, and Calabrian chiles. And straight from the wood-fired oven are clams with sherry, sliced garlic, and toast, though how long any of it will remain on the menu is up to Goin.
A huge part of A.O.C. in Brentwood is the former Tavern employees, both Styne and Goin say. Many longstanding employees have returned to launch the new A.O.C. in Brentwood, including Tavern chef de cuisine Hamilton Lyons, pastry chef Shannon Swindle, and Matt Duggan, who has managed with the Lucques Group since 2008.
“So many people moved away, but everyone who is in town and wants to come back, will be back,” says Goin. “We lost so many people during the pandemic. We actually have one employee who passed away from COVID. We talk about him a lot during training, and it just feels so strange to have him not be there.”
The partners closed their other star restaurant, the 21-year-old Lucques in 2020, just before the pandemic. To them, A.O.C. in Brentwood could represent a new beginning of sorts. Mostly, Goin and Styne simply love the process and figuring out the space. “It’s been interesting going through the reimagining of it,” says Styne. “I hate to give the analogy of a haircut, but it’s got a whole new attitude. It’s a fantastic change for the space and to have our clients have a whole new experience.”
For now, A.O.C. in Brentwood will keep dinner hours from 5:00 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. In the coming weeks, look out for lunch, weekend brunch, and breakfast.