A Fraiche perspective
I'm not quite sure what Culver City is developing into as a dining scene but suffice it to say that this past Monday evening with forty five minutes to spare before meeting a fellow Hound at the five day old Fraiche, I had plenty of other dining venues to peek into. Not much else, mind you, other than an antique store on Main St. and, of course, Trader Joe's. The underachieving Culver Hotel now sports a sort of sports cafe called Al's but the ketchup and mustard squirt bottles on the tables outside did nothing to entice while Howdy's Tacqueria across the public courtyard, if you will, does even less. Still a small crowd had gathered at Vinum Populi and there wasn't a laptop outlet to be found at the local bustling Starbuck's. Chalk it up to Monday night blues.
An hour later all such considerations faded as we bit into the first two ordered items for $5 each: housemade Merquez sausage with harissa, stunning in both heat and flavor and a plate of the best prosciutto this side of A.O.C. The rest of the eveing did not disappoint. A Kurobata pork chop for a reasonable $26 perfectly offset a pork osso bucco agnolotti (big words for a small portion) for an equally reasonable $12. Beets were served with creamy burrata and hazelnuts while a faro salad burst with citrus and peppers for $10 and $9 respectively. A beautiful rhubarb tart with an orange sorbet spiked with vanilla ice cream completed the evening at $8. LA Mill coffee is finding more and more homes as one of the best coffee offerings around (at least until Intelligentsia comes to town and the coffee wars heat up) while my friend found things to enjoy on the varied wine list. Service is caring and enthusiastic and, no doubt, evolving but the space is the real treasure. With a high angular ceiling, huge floor to ceiling windows, a large patio and sassy lighting that minimizes to define an intimate bar area, this is one of the most attractive and comfortable dining spots in town.
While some wait for the juggernaut that is Osteria Mozza to open, Fraiche is the most satisfying surprise of the year; and as this past Monday indicated a healthy contingent from some of the city's best dining venues were finding out for themselves.
I had a second dinner at Fraiche and remain thrilled with Travi's concept and execution. I started out with very good assorted charcuterie (including that merguez!) and then followed up with an excellent lamb stew. The bar menu has some overlap but a few items of its own as well (including a moules frites), so I am tempted to try that on my next visit.