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The Gossiping Gourmet: No microwaved taste at Arc

November 05, 2013|By Terry Markowitz
  • The bar and dining room at the the Arc.
The bar and dining room at the the Arc. (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Arc, in The OC Mix at SoCo, is one of the most exciting new restaurants to hit Orange County in quite a while.

It is distinguished by the fact that everything is cooked in the wood-fired oven or over the wood-fired grill. The stacks of logs inside and out are part of the décor.

It's a fairly small place with booths, a few tables and a long bar for eating and drinking. There is also an outdoor patio. The interior features a trendy minimalist décor with a pressed tin ceiling, lots of black and gray and a brick oven sending off warmth and wonderful aromas.

The restaurant doesn't take reservations, but it's worth the wait. You can always wander around the mart, buy a couch, some olive oil or a 50-gallon stock pot from the interesting array of shops that make up this venue.

Chef Noah Blom has earned his chops working for the likes of Daniel Boulud, Laurent Tourondel and Hans Prager, but he is definitely developing a cuisine of his own. I know of no other place in Orange County or Los Angeles that cooks exclusively with wood.

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The menu is minimalist as well. Each offering is described using just three words or expressions. So, for example, the menu item "Beets" is followed by "goat cheese, herb, champagne" and "Steak" with "potato, citrus, cream."

As you ponder the cryptic descriptions, your server will bring out metal trivets, which will later be the resting place for the cast-iron skillets or wooden boards that contain your selections. Your server will fill you in with details about each dish and tell you that the food comes out in random order, depending on cooking time. You will also be warned that the serving pans are very hot.

Our first course was calamari with lemon and pepper. The seared seafood was accompanied by sweet browned onions, shishito and red peppers, and little cubes of slightly charred potatoes. The juices from the squid and lemons made a wonderful sauce.

Our waitress suggested that we eat the calamari quickly, since it was still cooking in the hot skillet. We ate it as fast as we could, but it was a bit chewy, However, the combination was absolutely delicious.

Another winner was the meatball plate. These orbs were succulent and juicy with lots of garlic and a hint of whiskey in the very good, chunky tomato sauce. They came with garlic toast on the side for soaking up the sauce.

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