Thursday, January 24, 2013


Location: 615 W Randolph
Cost: About $50 per person

Google analytics is fun to play around with. It lets me track all kinds of information on JEC. On the surface, it tells me how many visits a day I get, but I can also see where people are checking out my blog from. Interestingly enough, each post is good for a bunch of hits in Arizona. That's because my old roommate Steve and his current roommate (and an old high school buddy of mine) Mike read pretty much every post. I'm not sure if it's home sickness or dental school boredom, but something makes them follow pretty closely (and g-d knows it's not my writing). For three years now, Mike has been telling me to go eat at Avec. He tosses in his opinion on places I've been in the meantime, but he always steers the conversation back to the necessity that I try his favorite restaurant. Well, I finally got around to it the other night with my friend Arif.

One of the things that kept me from Avec for so long was the prospect of waiting forever. They don't take reservations, don't have much room, and always have a huge crowd. With some random good fortune, Arif and I got sat at the bar right in front of the prep station the second we walked in. We got to see pretty much every dish and talk to the chefs about each one.

Although we were at the bar, our service was excellent. Plus, we got to taste a few things that the cooks were generous enough to toss our way. Now I always thought the cost would be much higher than it was. We ordered 4 small plates, 1 large plate, and a bunch of drinks which came to around $100. We could've easily had less food too and not spent as much. The small plate portions are totally reasonable to share with a group of 2-4. I know that it can be tempting to bring a crew to a popular place like this, but I'd strongly recommend limiting the size of your group.

The Food
They always say at these small plate restaurants that you get your food as it's prepared, but we had the added bonus of seeing everything come straight out of the oven (or off the pan or whatever). Our first dish was the Burrata with braised mushrooms, onions, and eggplant. The cheese was smokey with a salty sauce. The eggplant stood out most to me, and the loaf of bread the cooks tossed our way to soak up the remnants of the sauce really hit the spot.

The Burrata

Next up was the Hanger Steak with feta, artichokes, and persimmons. Just like pretty much everyone else these days, I'll gladly eat anything with persimmons. On top of that, the meat was on the rarer side of medium rare (aka perfect). The salad on top added this subtle acidity to the savory steak in what made for quite the combo.

The Hanger Steak

To keep the heavy hitters rolling, they brought out the Chicken Thigh with bomba rice, red kuris squash, and apples. The chicken had a great crisp with a moist center. The rice had an excellent crisp from the edges of the pan. This was probably my favorite dish of the night.

 The Chicken Thigh

The next dish was probably the strangest of the night, the Squid Amatriciana. It came out as sort of a tomato based squid noodle casserole. The sauce was rich and the fennel aioli smoothed it over even more.

 The Squid

The last of the main dishes was our large plate order, the Wood Fired Pizza with sardines, sausage, and mint. The sardines were plentiful and strong. Atop the chewy yet crispy crust, they left just enough room for the spicy sausage crumbles. The mint may have been a bit strong for me at times, but overall it was a great pizza.

 The Wood Fired Pizza

For dessert we had the Chocolate Hazelnut Bread Pudding with coffee gelato. It had this orange drizzle of sorts across the top that overpowered the rest of the somewhat simple flavors in the dish. I wasn't really a fan, but in all fairness, the chef told us to get pretty much everything else on the menu.

The Chocolate Hazelnut Bread Pudding

I was pretty full after the third small plate, but we kept ordering anyways because everything was just so delicious. There are a ton of small plate menus out there, but Avec shows how it should be done. Logistically, the wait is a pain, but if you get lucky or plan accordingly you're in for a treat. I'm giving them a Pearl Necklace, 5 out of 5.

Avec on Urbanspoon