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Are You Getting Fraiche With Me?
With a name like Fraiche, (um, “fresh” in French), I was kinda expecting some “fresh” new flavours, a psychedelic mouth adventure where few palates have gone before, where even an Iron Chef could learn a thing or two… well, I exaggerate. Let’s just say, my expectations were up there. And while it wasn’t quite as wild as I had hoped, there were still a number of plates that left my taste buds tingling.
Fraiche is the latest addition to downtown Culver City’s restaurant renaissance. It’s beautiful inside, with decadently high ceilings, exposed brick walls and surprisingly, not as many tables as it could fit in there, which I LOVE. The space is split up into the restaurant and the bar, with comfy couches and heat lamps outside. Service was a little slow at the beginning, (it took forever to get our appetizers) but I think they were more overwhelmed than unconcerned, given that they’ve only been open a week or so.
To the food. First up, the appetizer I was most looking forward to, the one you see above: the Beef Tartare with Bacon Sabayon. The beef itself was perfectly tender, delicate pink, with a delicious smoky aftertaste, sort of like a gourmet bacon cheeseburger (minus the cheese). It’s paired with a small arugula salad, so this is the perfect little bite to go with your glass of wine when you’re out with the girls and trying to appear delicate, while you’re secretly ravenous. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.
The best dish of the night after the jump…
We also ordered oysters on the half shell. I thought they were delicious but I'm not an oyster connoisseur - they were something "bay" and something else "bay". The most memorable part of the oyster dish was the horseradish - definitely the freshest I've ever had, daring my friends and I to pile it on kamikaze-style and ride that sweet nose explosion (sinus tsunami?) just one more time. The Tre Baccala, a trio of salt cod bites was interesting - the one with the whipped potatoes was my favorite, although my favorite salt cod dish will always be Suzanne Goin's Brandade at Lucques.
But Fraiche's jewel in the crown is definitely the Branzino En Papillote, a sea bass entrée cooked in a parchment paper pouch, which is then sliced open at the table. It's served atop a pile of purple fingerling potatoes, gently roasted fennel and a few black olives. I was a bit skeptical because I haven't had good experiences with papillote cooking - it's usually bland and kinda sweaty. But this was the complete opposite. The fish was perfectly cooked, tinted with a delicious wine sauce. Even the skin was yummy, not tough or chewy as I would have expected it to be. This is a complicated dish to make well, and it was made with a confident hand. Bravo!!
My friends had the Steak Frites, the Kurobuta Pork Chop and the Passatelli en Brodo (a breadcrumb pasta in broth with pulled chicken and fava beans). All were solid, but pretty standard.
We ended with a special dessert, a lemon something or other - I asked the waiter to repeat it a couple of times, and still didn't understand, although that's probably more my fault than his. It was delicious though; it tasted like a firmer lemon crème brulee, served with a blackberry granita. I normally go chocolate all the way when it comes to dessert, but in this case, the lemony goodness was much better than the chocolate gateau.
All in all, this is a solid addition to the Culver City culinary family, a comfortably swanky spot that I'm sure the Sony after-work crowd will hit up often. Next time I'm going to check out the bar menu, which is different from the restaurant one. The moules frites looked delicious. And I think I'll probably be craving the Beef Tartare and the Branzino again.
9411 Culver Blvd.,
Culver City, CA 90232
Cruise off the highway and hit locally-known spots for some tasty bites.
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