L’Aile Ou La Cuisse (AOC)
314 Bleecker St. (corner of Grove)
New York, New York 10014
This bistro located in the West Village was named after a 1976 French comedy called “L’Aile Ou La Cuisse” or “The Wing or the Thigh.” Some translations are “The Breast or the Leg” which is more appetizing. The plot concerns an editor of a famous restaurant guide (much like the Michelin Guide) who trains his son to run the family business. It turns out the son is more interested in the circus than haute cuisine. On the scene arrives a company that sells mass-produced foot. The father and son strive to ruin the food company any way they can. From the trailers, the movie looks like a silly slapstick. The movie may be seen as an allegory about the conflict between traditional French cuisine and American fast food. Apparently, it received mixed reviews.
The bistro is charming with white table cloths, bright open windows looking out on Bleecker and Grove, and a comfortable bar. The lighting is soft and warm. A rather mysterious red bicycle is suspended in one of the main windows in front of the bistro. The music was rhythm and blues played softly.
It was a cold winter day and we ordered some bistro classics. The bread arrived in a zinc bucket. The bread was flavorful and better than what many bistros serve. Our server said it was made in house. The butter was hard as a rock; fortunately, it was not necessary to enjoy the bread.
The French onion soup was excellent. It compares with Odeon’s onion soup which we view to be the gold standard. The broth was almost black, and very rich. The ratio between onion and bread was good. It was topped with a mixture of several high quality cheeses. Other starters included standards such as snails, fois gras, oysters and steak tartare.
We had the wild mushroom risotto (with baby vegetables, balsamic glaze and Parmesan cheese) and the demi poulet (with aux jus and French fries).
Both were excellent. The risotto was perfectly cooked with firmness and flavor. It was not gummy or pasty which we see more often than not. The mushrooms were earthy and suggested black soil in an ancient forrest. The chicken was cooked properly; flavorful, firm but not dry. The skin was salted. Unfortunately, the French fries were excellent-crispy, salty and dry- so we ate them all!
The menu is very broad and features a large variety of classics such as duck leg confit, hanger steak, coq au vin, cotes de boef, a seafood croustillant and PEI mussels. Cheese and charcuterie platters are also offered.
The service and food was good, conformity to the Bistro Archetype was high and the energy positive. There was no suggestion of American fast food culture here! We liked AOC and recommend it highly.
Service: 7 (Friendly, professional but casual.)
Archetype: 7 (The bicycle in the window remains a mystery)
Food: 8 (Bistro standards; well-prepared. No American fast food here. )
Energy: 7 (Beautiful West Village location; great light through front windows, soft light and inviting bar)
L’Aile Ou La Cuisse