Fraiche - very bad experience
My girlfriend and I finally made our eagerly anticipated first trip to Fraiche last night. Perhaps our expectations were too high based on the amount of hype the place has gotten, but we were severely disappointed. The service was absolutely unacceptable, with a level of disorganization and inattentiveness that would make the local Chili's manager blanch with embarrassment.
We had an 8:30 reservation, got there about 15 minutes early, and were seated promptly. Once we were handed menus, it took a long time for our waiter to come over and greet us and take our order. (We already had our bread before we saw him.) We ordered our drinks, salads, and entrees at the same time. About ten minutes later, our salads arrived, but our drinks still hadn't come. (They were brought out a few minutes later.) Finished our salads after a while; they were pretty sizable so we took our time with them.
And then... nothing. Fifteen minutes go by, twenty-five, thirty. We try to catch our waiter's eye to ask him what's going on, but he keeps avoiding us, only swooping by to ask us if we want more drinks and then disappearing again. More time goes by. We're losing our appetite and our desire to be there. Finally I'm able to flag down the waiter and politely ask him if there's any problem with our entrees. All he says is "they're not ready yet." I reply that we've been waiting quite a while and all he says is -- and please, imagine this in the most condescending tone possible -- "We make all our food fresh, so it takes longer." (Oh, thanks. That totally makes sense. Because we're used to going to places that just grab a frozen Stouffer's meal out of the freezer and microwave it.)
A few minutes later the food finally arrives. I estimate we were waiting about an hour, all told. No apology for the long wait; not even an explanation (even the usual "Sorry, the kitchen was backed up tonight" would have been a huge improvement). We finish quickly because we just want to get out of there. (Incidentally: I ordered the four-cheese tortelli with brown butter sauce. It was fine, but it was just a knock-off of the same dish at Spago except not done as well.) The waiter comes back and asks us if we want dessert. We tell him no and ask him to send the manager over. When he arrives, I tell him in detail about the poor service we had. He doesn't offer an explanation either, but at least he apologizes.
Well, we're sorry too... sorry that we gave Fraiche a shot. It'll be the last time we do. There are too many great places in L.A. -- places that bend over backwards to provide superior service and don't talk down to their customers.
(One last side note: the group seated next to us was having a birthday party there. They brought their own cake. And Fraiche charged them eight dollars *per person* to serve it. Just a warning to anyone who's considering that.)
Everytime I go to Fraiche I always get the same attitude from the staff. They act as though it is a privilege to eat there, and that they are doing a favor by serving you. The food is good, but not worth putting up with the attitude.
On numerous occasions I have been made to feel guilty if I don't order dessert or a pasta AND an entree. They need to realize that getting a bunch of writups in LA magazine doesn't give you the right to be arrogant.
Hi.. Sorry to hear of the poor experience there... However, regarding the 'cake corkage': apparently, that's not uncommon, as I learned of this on an extensive thread in the Not About Food board in 2007. A restaurant needs to make their money on the desserts *they* create and serve, so any dessert brought in (especially for a larger group or celebratory party) is gonna cut deep into their profits on the desserts not purchased from the establishment. What's more, apparently (again, from the extensive thread I mentioned), it's considered appropriate for the chef in the kitchen to be offered a piece of the cake/dessert that the patron brings in, AND, unless the unserved dessert leftovers are requested by the person who brought it, the remainder of the cake/dessert STAYS left behind for the staff instead of being boxed up as leftovers. If the in-house desserts at Fraiche are in the $8 range, then that's what each diner would be charged for eating cake borught in from elsewhere. Fraiche isn't a church social hall or picnic spot, so I reckon they wouldn't supply silverware and plateware (which also has to then be washed) for free. Makes sense, unfortunately :-). Again, sorry about your bad meal otherwise...
I understand if a restaurant charges for 'cakeage' - but $8/person is pretty steep unless it's being served on remarkably good china and silverware, highly doubtful for a place like Fraiche.
Yes, having a big group not ordering the restaurant desserts is a bummer on the bottom line, but the restaurant's also gotta think about the profits it is making from multiple apps/drinks/entrees sold by having a large party being held there, and when folks start to hear about the high cakeage fees and the like, it may dissuade them from celebrating there.
Eight dollars/person is gross, but to reiterate a few of silence9's and AquaW's points: this is a practice some restaurants follow. Fraiche is a business- one whose business is to sell you food. High "cakeage" fees are surely meant to discourage cutting into their bottom line. What's more, they do use manhours and resources to cut, serve, and clean up after the cake.
Again, $8per is gross and certainly discourages bringing a "special" cake to a "special" restaurant. It might also leave a bad enough taste to discourage a return trip to said restaurant.
One does, however, have the option to serve cake at home.
Well, I have a modest proposal based on all this.
Restaurants that don't want their own desserts diminished by people who bring their own cake can feel free to charge $8 per person.
However, alongside the cake they should give each person one of the restaurant's own desserts as well, in a little plastic takeout box. That way, people enjoy their cake, the restaurant makes money, and their house desserts will continue to get good word of mouth.
This came up with a Primativo discussion last year. I'm surprised restaurants even allow anyone to bring their own cake - it opens them up to lawsuits if anyone gets food poisoning that night. Cake transport and then restaurant refrigeration can make the cake turn, and cause people to be ill. But food poisoning is difficult to pinpoint on exactly what caused the poisoning, so restaurants lose, or at the very least, expose themselves to this nightmare. People almost never return to a restaurant that made them sick.
I won't defend the poor service, but any restaurant can have an off night.
I've been to Fraiche twi times. The first time was not long after it opened. Our server was clueless and we (4 of us) had a long wait (similar to yours) between our apps/pasta and our entrees. Annoying no doubt, but when the entrees did arrive, they were solid.
The last visit, just a few weeks ago, a group of 6 of us went and the flow of the courses was spot on and it was a Saturday night. The service was significantly better as well. We thought a few of the app and pastas were just ok, but everything else was delicious.
I'll be the first to 86 a restaurant, but I won't do it on one visit alone.
Bummers about the bad service you got; yes, crap can happen sometimes in the kitchen - but the waiter/manager should do a better job of letting you know. And yes, even an acknowledgment that orders were behind would've been nice.
I had a chuckle at the waiter's response -- I would've been tempted to be snarky and ask "Well, are they harvesting the wheat for my pasta now?"
And the cake corkage is ridiculous!