We had a 6:30 PM reservation at Fraiche last night, and this latest addition to the upscale dining scene in Culver City is clearly at the top of the heap -- it's way better than Ford's and a much nicer space and better value than Wilson. We were seated promptly -- service had a few lags, but nothing terrible (we waited a while for bread and water and drinks orders) and the food was first rate. I agree with an earlier poster that they need to lose the khaki and oxford shirt look that should have disappeared with Tulipe a decade ago -- it doesn't mesh with the urban indoor/outdoor vibe the place has artfully created.
Really a great wine list -- when was the last time I saw more than half a dozen white rhones on a wine list -- we ordered a 2005 Crozes Hermitage -- $43 -- very round and went great with our food choices. Our server (I think the only female server -- "Cat") was very enthusiastic about everything on the menu and even knew a few things about the wine list.
A word about the bread -- very good -- came with olive spread -- a standard french and an onion bread. And water -- hey we weren't pushed into ordering a bottle of "artisanal" water for a change. We got tap with some lemons with nary a snarl.
I ended up ordering the special soup -- cream of asparagus (made with a vege stock and pureed with parmesan cheese) that had a few baby scalllops floating in it. Tasty and hot, though not as much pure asparagus flavor as I would want, I had no real complaints. My partner's beet salad was a great riff on the typical red beets/arugula/goat cheese appetizer: these were "golden" beets, with a odd pinkish gray hue to them. If we hadn't known they were beets I would have thought they were some sort of unfresh mollusk. But they were beets and they were fantastic, sitting atop a bed of mache, hazelnuts and sheep's milk ricotta cheese. A very light dressing of orange juice and something else made this dish a real winner.
We tried the monkfish "francaise" and black cod for main dishes -- my monkfish was perfectly sauteed in a white wine and shallot sauce, sitting on a bed of spinach and mashed potatoes (plain mashed potatoes, thank you -- no need to add more flavors to a dish just to show you can) -- this was a really pure tasting dish that exceeded my expectations. Partner's cod was good, but arrived oddly cold in spots -- we decided not to mention it, otherwise we feared it would come back over done. Both dishes went well with the wine we selected.
We had a hard time deciding on dessert -- there were some good choices, but nothing that really sprang out at us, so we ordered the assorted plate of cookies and sweets which was warm, all house made (as are the sorbets and ice creams we are told) and a great complement to the miniscule espressos.
Bill at the end of the evening, including a 20% tip was a bit less than $150 -- for the food, I thought this was an excellent deal.
In atmosphere, the place is a bit reminiscent of AOC, though the tables are spaced much more generously, and I didn't feel like I was invading the space of the complete stranger sitting next to me, like I feel at AOC. But -- the two tops are all against the west wall, which allows one diner a great view of the open kitchen and the gleaming bar and all the bustling activity, and the other diner gets to .... look at the wall..... oh well, we switched seats after our appetizers.
The place was packed by the time we left at 8:30 -- boy, the days of Stagebrush Cantina and San Gennaro seem long ago to this longtime resident. No regrets.
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