I’ve visited ARC several times now after its opening at SoCo’s The OC Mix. My son absolutely loves it and often asks if we can go back again and for me, I find the simple, yet rustic menu very appealing. After several visits, I feel I’ve tried enough of the menu to give a good rundown of what Chef/Owner Noah Blom and partner Marin Howarth’s vision for this trendsetter of a restaurant is all about.
They call the concept “scratch cooking”, a hands-on approach to cooking like we did back in the day before we had all this technology. Everything is cooked on an open flame, or a wood fire oven, there are no stoves here. It’s going back to the basics of cooking.
I’ve had many people “complain” to me regarding the menu, how it is overly simplistic. I, on the other hand, loathe an overly complicated menu. Simple, I like. The menu is very straight-forward — fish, pig, duck, veg — that’s the only heading you’ll get, plus a handful of accoutrements for some idea what’s in the dish. But then again, what else do you need? You’ll be served a part of the animal as they plate it because Chef Blom uses the entire animal.
Everything here is served in a cast iron skillet, scalding when it arrives. Trivets are placed on the table for them to sit on as each dish comes out of the oven. One of our favorites was Calamari ($15), with potato, lemon (we’ve had both regular lemon as well as kaffir lime) and pepper. My son pointed out how nice it was that the calamari wasn’t fried.
Casserole ($12) with chicken, broccoli and cheddar was a rectangular iron pan of cheesy, gooey, deliciousness. So rich and comforting I don’t think my son wanted to share.
One of the items we ordered on every occasion was Duck ($15) which is first cured and then crisped in the oven and served with lemon, jam and honey. The sweetness and tartness from the jam and honey is perfectly paired with the fall-off-the-bone duck. I believe everyone loved it and we are still talking about it a month plus after our visits.
The selection for the Veg ($12) always rotate. Farm fresh vegetables — zucchini and shimeiji mushrooms were in the skillet on this visit and it was eaten up really quickly by all.
If you’re a fan of Bacon ($8), I highly suggest you order a side of it. Cured and smoked in-house, these thick slices are perfect for sharing. So rich and so decadent, a few slices of this sandwiched between some bread with lettuce and tomato is all I would want for the perfect sandwich!
The only item off the regular menu I didn’t really enjoy was Soup ($10) and onion soup which wasn’t rich and hearty like the onions soups I prefer.
After all that, now is the time to tell you about the “secret menu”. Well, it’s not really THAT secretive, but if it’s your first visit, you probably won’t know about it. Every day, behind the open flame is the secret menu, surreptitiously written on the refrigerator door.
We ordered The Salad ($18) — essentially, a grilled chicken salad served in a wooden serving platter enough for two to share or four as an appetizer. Yes, there was THAT much food!!
The Burger ($18) is also not on the regular menu but it’s there — oh, it’s there! I’m not even a burger person and I wanted a second bite of this. It’s a big burger and I’m glad there were a lot of us to share it, but I could seriously eat this whole burger myself.
Another special is Salmon ($30), a piece of grilled salmon with vegetables and served with a glass of white wine. This off-the-menu item is an homage to Noah’s mom, who, according to the chef used to cook salmon so dismally it was dry and unpalatable. Here, the salmon is flaky moist and absolutely delicious. It serves as a meal on its own or if you’re like us, we shared!
One more little secret at ARC is that everything on the menu can be ordered as a sandwich. So if you wanted the duck, steak or pig as a sandwich, they’ll put it between some delicious bread from OC Baking Company for you to enjoy! Just ask!
There are no desserts here. I’ve heard many reasons why from Chef not particularly fond of making desserts to Chef not particularly fond of eating desserts. This way, I don’t have to save room for the desserts my friends order and I can utilize all the space in my stomach for the savory. Someone told me “the cocktails are the desserts!” Music to my ears!
I love ARC and I know you will too. This week, I have $50 for one of my readers to win to visit ARC and sample the delicious eats and libations they have to offer. Leave me a comment with your FULL name telling me why this style of cooking appeals to you. Entries close Sunday 31st. A lucky winner will be announced on Monday, April 1st — and no it won’t be an April fools, you’ll REALLY get the $50 to ARC!
3303 Hyland Avenue
Costa Mesa, CA 92626