Fraiche in Culver City
Had dinner there last night. It was excellent. Service was perfect, we were seated on time in accordance with our reservation. The food was great. There were six of us. We had a charcuterie plate that was excellent; Simon oysters on the halfshell that were perfect, split several wild mushroom salads that were superb. Two people had the branzino cooked in paper and they liked it but didn't love it - thought it was a little too bland. The monkfish, veal cheeks and a simple steak frites were all very big hits. The lamb dish was a "very good." The cookies were, well, they were cookies, nothing to write home about. The espresso was strong and not bitter - just the way I like it. All in all, a very good experience and we will be back.
My BF and I went to Fraiche before a movie one evening - we didn't have reservations, and when we got there at six the host said they were booked solid until 10:30! However, we ended up sitting in their bar section of the patio which actually has quite a nice selection of dishes from the restaurant menu. I had the moules frites, which were excellent - in a delicious broth - and he had the rigatoni with lamb ragu - also delicious. Oh - we had the torta della nonna for dessert - also yummy.
It was a perfect small meal before a movie - the only slight problem was that my drink took forever to arrive, but I don't worry too much about that as the waitress was extremely nice and apologetic, and the cocktail was great (blood orange martini, I think).
We're looking forward to going back for the regular restaurant.
I went last week and was disappointed. It's a very impressive place (although I actually prefer something a bit more intimate). And I haven't seen as appealing a menu in quite some time. But the food itself was not particularly memorable - and the pasta was undercooked - and the portions were small - and the prices were hefty. I wouldn't go out of my way to go back. Too bad - I really like the Culver City renaissance!
I also had a very disappointing experience a couple of Fridays ago. Our waiter was horrible and was upset that we were not ordering alcohol. In the middle of taking our order, he started to talk to someone walking by the patio. Our appetizers were actually good. It took over 45 minutes for our entrees to come out. The restaurant was only half full (end of night) and my steak was cold. The fries were good, but not worth the money. My friend's pasta was overcooked and the sauce had so much salt. Don't know if I will travel back again. Will definitely go back to Ford's.
The first time we were there, we loved our server, a woman named Kat (or Cat, I suppose). She was knowledgable (considering the restaurant had been open a very short time), friendly and competent. The second time we had a server who was probably the guy you describe -- he seemed very distracted, constantly looking out onto the patio while he was supposed to be describing specials, taking our order, etc. He walked away in the middle of our wine decision. I figured he was looking for some important foodie to come strolling in. He had a slight Aussie accent I think.
Next time we go we'll specifically ask for Cat.
Yes, we've been to Wilson about 5 times (3 lunches, 2 dinners) and Beacon about at least a half dozen times. We live very close to this area and enjoy walking to dinner if we're in the mood for those places.
I like Wilson, but think it's overpriced for what you get. They have some cool innovative dishes and they are quite friendly, but I feel like I'm paying about 30% more than I need to be, given the portions and the overall food quality.
Beacon is in the same style (in my mind at least -- japanese-cal fusion) as Orris and Mako, and not as good as either of those, though I"ve enjoyed the bento box at lunch. I have not been in a few months (so many new places in the area to try these days) but the menu has barely changed from when it opened, and in about a half dozen visits, I've tried just about everything. So I'd like to see a more expansive menu or at least some changes in offerings.
It is better than Keizo which opened recently in the Trader Joe's building, and has similar food but a more extensive menu and a sushi menu.
As far as Wilson, Ford's and Fraiche go, I would rank Fraice first, Wilson 2nd and Ford's 3rd.
Four of us dined at Fraiche last night; I think we lucked out with the server ("Kat) you describe since our server was very attentive and knowledgable about the food.
Three of us started with pastas (tagliolini, tortelli and agnolotti) and one of us had the farro salad. All of the pastas arrived fresh and cooked perfectly al dente; the tortelli with sage/brown butter and rabbit was decadent and the favorite of the table. The farro salad was surprisingly good and a welcome, light foil against the heavier pastas.
We experienced a long wait between our apps and our main courses. I atttribute this to the restaurant still being relatively new and as of Tuesday, it just started to offer lunch service so the kitchen crew must be adjusting to the new schedule.
Also, their wine list, although it's extensive and the mark-up is quite reasonable, is a little light on inventory based on our experience. The Sea Smoke was not available and the Loire pinot that was brought to the table had obviously suffered from heat damage since there was a noticeable red stain running from the cork down the length of the bottle. Why bother serving this to a customer at all?
However, when the entrees did arrive, it was well worth the wait. The monkfish truly tasted like "poor man's lobster"; the heavy use of butter probably helped. The berkshire pork chop was a perfect medium rare and came with chive mashed potatoes (with plenty of butter) and a few roasted root vegetables.
Dessert was a three cheese plate (epoisses, etorki, midnight moon) and a chocolate/banana concoction that was devine.
Overall, a fantastic meal and I love the layout and ambience of the room; the brick and orange glow creates a warm, comfortable room.
We'll be back for sure...
Out dinner last night at Fraiche was great! We really enjoyed everything, but here is a rundown of my thoughts on each individual item:
First off, the waiter selected a wine for us - it was a Burgundy ($50) that was exceptional. Went great with all the food and I thought it was very reasonably priced.
Farro Salad - Very interesting flavors - tasted fresh, minty and loved the pecorino which sort of tied the whole dish together. Portion was unfortunately small - I wanted more of this.
Charcuterie - prosciutto and crespone. Both were excellent, really loved the crespone, but again just a few slices of each, which made it difficult to share between 3 people.
Pastas: Both were small portions, I am assuming they are meant to be shared since I could not order one of these and actually be full :)
Black & White Tagliolini with Bay Scallops: really interesting dish - I never had orange zest in my pasta before but it worked really well with the scallops. Pasta was super fresh, which always makes a big difference to me.
Tortelli with Braised Rabbit: The flavors in this were awesome, but all of us thought that the pasta was a little too al dente. Actually, some were fine and others were downright hard, which kind of took away from the enjoyment of it. The best bites were when you got the pieces of sage - really took it to another flavor level. I still liked this a lot, just wish the outer parts of the tortelli were a tad softer.
Monkfish Francaise - this was probably the best monkfish dish I have ever had. It was cooked perfectly and the flavors in this were super fresh. The mashed potatoes that accompanied this dish were lovely - not overly buttery, but still rich and creamy.
Lamb Spezzatino - this reminded me of the pot roast that my mom used to make growing up - had all the same flavors with the carrots, celery and onions, so it was super comforting and yummy. Although one of the diners thought it was a bit too salty. The ricotta gnocchi that accompanied this was awesome - melt in your mouth! I wish more people made gnocchi this way instead of with potatoes.
Paris-Brest: To me this tasted like a cream puff, but instead stuffed with almond whipped cream. It was good, but it was missing something. Would have been better if there was a mix of the almond cream and regular whipped cream to balance the flavors a little more. The saffron sauce was really interesting though - other people at the table liked this better than me.
Strawberry and Rose: This was awesome!! One of the most interesting and best desserts I have had in a long time. Prepared so well and the combination of the cake with the mousse and the ice cream was just lovely. Tasted so fresh and light. I could eat this all the time!!
Overall thoughts that I took away was that on a whole we really enjoyed the meal. These days when I think about how I judge a restaurant and whether or not I would return is based on 1) Quality and 2) Uniqueness. I don't like going to a restaurant and getting something that I know I could get at any other restaurant - I like trying new things and experiencing new flavors. Also, the quality of the food and the freshness of each ingredient is also important - I have been amazed at times by dishes that have so few ingredients, yet everything is the best and freshest and it makes a world of difference. I thought Fraiche did really well with both these criteria. Everything we ate not only tasted unique, but the quality of it all was excellent. I would return and I would also recemmond this place to others. Actually...looking forward to returning since there are so many things on the menu I still want to try.
The wine list is great. Standout dishes were my monkfish "francaise" as my main dish, and my partner's appetizer of beets, mache lettuce, sheep's milk cheese and hazelnuts was awesome. Her main dish of cod came lukewarm and even a bit cold in spots, and my asparagus soup with tiny scallops was good but not fantastic.
We had the dessert cookie assortment and really liked that.
We are going back tomorrow with veggie friends, who will presumably have the english pea sformato and the white gazpacho (which I am also very eager to try).
Overally, this was a very positive dining experience. Food was very high quality and we did not experience the service problems that others have reported.
The hangar steak at Fraiche was delicious, in case your husband wants a steak anyway. My husband's verdict was "so-so" on the accompanying frites, I didn't taste them. Maybe order them well-done, he neglected to do that and he usually does. They didn't look underdone but they weren't as toasty as he would usually like. I loved my Kurobota pork chop too.
Here are some comments from a previous post that describes a few items:
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 evening 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 farro 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.
The farro salad was wonderful - highly recommendable, yet something you might typically overlook.
Enjoy and report back.