Fraiche take on Franco-Italian

Restaurant: Fraiche

Location: 9411 Culver Blvd. Culver City, CA 90232. 310-839-6800

Date: January 29, 2011

Cuisine: Cal French Italian

Rating: Interesting, Tasty, and surprisingly reasonable.

 

My office was in Culver City in 2007 and 2008 and somehow I never tried Fraiche. I always meant to, but it seemed more a dinner place than a lunch place. Nighttime Culver city proved to be just as hopping. There has been a pretty serious boom in restaurants around the main drag in the last 10 years.

Anyway, yesterday was my mother’s birthday, and I decided to Fraiche a try. Glad I did. Interesting hybrid of Cal, French, and Italian.

Pretty open space. The only problem was all the hard surfaces made it loud — lean in someone’s ear to hear the conversation loud.

More goodies from my cellar. Parker gives this Tuscan wine 98 points!  “The dense ruby/purple-colored 1997 Percarlo is compelling. Enormous in aromas, flavors, and persistence on the palate, it exhibits profound levels of concentration as well as unbelievably dense, black currant, blackberry liqueur notes infused with new saddle leather, licorice, truffles, and toasty oak. Enormously thick and viscous, with low acidity, and mouthcoating levels of extract, this wine’s tannin level is high, but largely obscured by the wealth of fruit, glycerin, and extract. It is an amazing accomplishment! Anticipated maturity: now-2020.”

The Menu.  Click to enlarge.

We decided to order tapas style and just get a lot of dishes and all share. So we didn’t dip heavily into the “mains” section but pulled most stuff from the appetizers, “shares,” pastas and salads. Truth is, appetizers and pastas are usually yummier than entrees, and I love meals with lots of tastes.

A very Spanish sentiment.

A note on the service. A+ for effort and attitude. They were extremely nice and accommodating, and really tried. Buit they had some pacing issues. We waited for 45 minutes for any food, and then 7-8 dishes came out in like 2 minutes. As we had ordered about 14-15 dishes all to share, and it would have been much better one or two at a time — but it was still a great meal.

Campari and soda. They made it too weak at first and we had to ask for an extra shot of the red beetle-juice.

Olives on the table. Despite the French-Italian thing there was a definite Iberian vibe here too. So man Latin: Franco-Italian-Spanish.

Several types of bread. A number of the “shares” are spreads of various sort — which is also sort of Spanish.

Fraiche seems to like mason jars.

“Eggplant Caviar, Raisins / Marcona Almonds” on the left and “Piquillo Cheese Spread, Chorizo / Manchego” on the right. The eggplant was very middle eastern in taste, cumin and other spices, almonds and raisons.  Good though. Nice texture, very exotic overall flavor.

The cheese was really good too, like the Spanish version of the southern “pimento cheese.”

Fanny Bay oysters. Nice set of the classic three sauces. Vinaigrette, cocktail, and horseradish. Solid oysters, pretty much how nature made ’em.


“Belgian Endives, Coppa / Apple / Goat Cheese / Pecan.” The pecans were really good, nicely candied. The whole thing was very bitter, salty, sweet. A very interesting interplay of textures and flavors.

“Wild Arugula, Mushroom / Sunchoke / Tomato / Pecorino.” There was nothing wrong with this salad, but it was certainly more boring than the above.

“Baby Beets, House Made Ricotta / Orange / Pistachio.” Sweetness of the beets meshes with the cheesy sauce. Beet salads have become very passe, but when well done (like this one), I like them.


Given the more Iberian taste slant I’m glad I brought a Spanish wine. Parker gives this blockbuster 96 points. “The 2008 Flor de Pingus had been in bottle for 2 weeks when I tasted it. It offers up an enticing nose of smoke, Asian spices, incense, espresso, black cherry, and blackberry. On the palate it displays outstanding volume, intensity, and balance. Rich, dense, and succulent, it has enough structure to evolve for 4-5 years and will offer prime drinking from 2015 to 2028.”

“Seared Daurade RoyaleFarro / Black Rice / Arugula / Tangerine.” My wife gave this the big thumbs up, primarily for the fruity sauce.

“House Made Agnolotti, Wild Mushroom / Mascarpone / Truffle Butter.” Really nice fresh pasta, intense mushroomy qualities, nice creamy truffle butter sauce.

 

“Vialone Nano Risotto, Porchini / Arugula / Pine Nuts.” Soft, cheesy, and mild. A very nice subtle risotto. The chef her has a good sense of texture.

“Bucatini Carbonara, Poached Egg / Pancetta / Pecorino Romano.” Classic cabonara. The bacon was great, very smokey, but rich as this was, it didn’t have the cheesy richness that a truly great carbonara should have. Good, but not great.

“Lamb Papardelle, Tomato / Olives / Onetik Goat Cheese.” Nice. Tangy almost, with a the black olives penetrating the sauce a bit like a provencal dish.

“Taglierini Neri, Maine Lobster / Cherry Tomatoes / Basil.” The pasta was sweet, the sauce a basic lobster sauce, nice chunks of lobster. Also good but not great.

“Paccheri Genovese, Beef & Pork Ragù / Scallion / Gruyère.” This one was great. basically a Bolognese, but really good. Close even to one of my ultimate pasa favorites, the lamb ragu at Capo (SEE HERE).

The dessert menu.

“CHOCOLATE COULANT, toffee / peanut butter ice cream.” Very nice variant on the flour-less chocolate cake. Nice and moist, comboed with the peanut ice cream and hazelnut. I really liked the chocolate/nut double whammy.

“Carmel Budino, Vanilla Mascarpone, Sea salt.” Mildly carmel/creamy with that nice salt factor. Good, but not quite as good as the similar dessert at Gjelina (SEE HERE).

“Vanilla Panna cotta, mango / passion-fruit / pop rocks.” This one was fantastic though. Mango chunks, passion-fruit gel, creamy vanilla panna cotta, and the weird wild card that worked: pop rocks!  Yes, the candy that didn’t kill Mikey (I still remember the original urban leegend from the 70s). Tingles on the tongue.

A view from the outside.
Overall Fraiche was pretty impressive. Great flavors, great textures, and a pretty reasonable tab for such an elaborate meal. They feel like a 12 cylinder Ferrari with one cylinder not firing. Sexy, fast, you don’t really miss the power, but not completely in tune. Still, there is also a nice originality here, it’s different than the bulk of places — in a good way. Also we have what is essentially pretty elaborate cuisine, but a more casual space. This seems to be a big trend, probably both culturally and nudged by the recession. The “formal” spaces are getting few and far between. Bistro LQ, where I had a 20+ course truffle meal 10 days before is also fairly casual, and the complex food at Red Medicine (REVIEW HERE) is placed in a very bar like setting.

3 comments on “Fraiche take on Franco-Italian

  1. […] This particular location adjacent to the Barnes and Nobel on Wilshire near the promenade has a fairly checkered past. Two or three years ago the Fraiche group turned it into Riva. This was supposed to be a coastal Italian, but to my taste wasn’t really Italian at all — although they made a decent Pizza. In any case, it failed and they rebooted it as Fraiche Santa Monica with an entirely new menu and staff, albiet an identical interior. This is sort of a spin off of the Culver City location (REVIEW HERE). […]

  2. […] Another good Culver City place is Fraiche, here for review. […]

  3. […] here for some tamer meals at regular Fraiche Santa Monica or Culver City […]

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