I'm probably the last food blogger in L.A. to go to Fraîche. Finally we went for H's birthday, with high hopes of this much touted Culver City star. Downtown CC no longer looks all dressed up with nowhere to go. Instead, the food/drink/art loving masses come on their own, and spill out onto the sidewalks in front Fraîche and the like.
Frank Bruni's praise for the monkfish danced in my brain during the drive over. I often bitch about not seeing it on enough menus in L.A., and I wanted to taste those tender, meaty nuggets. The dish did not disappoint, and was a great reminder that monkfish doesn't have to come with bacon or a smoky meat to satisfy. The swoosh of silky potatoes underneath was enough extra buttery heft for my taste.
Sweetish dressing on the mushroom salad, however, was an odd choice and detracted from earthy mushroomy flavor. A huge kurobuta pork chop needed more seasoning. At least the platter of Kumamoto oysters was perfect.
The wine list offers plenty to chose from without breaking the bank. Our 2001 Saint-Joseph Rochecourbe by Domaine Alain Paret for $58 was a great buy, versatile enough for our different choices. (The list of typical sherries and ports is unexciting.)
This isn't the place, however, to skimp on the final course. I insisted on hogging the lemon meringue tart to myself, and nibbled on explosively tasty ricotta fritters dotted with sweet tiny early season strawberries.
The volume was loud enough that I didn't even notice the background soundtrack. Even though I'm a little bummed to have missed out on a good mix, this is a good thing. They don't pump up the volume to compete with the already considerable din of lively chatter.
Now the room -- non-kitschy use of flagstone and warm materials, crowded tables, open kitchen. I like it. But the corridor to the bathrooms feels like an entirely different restaurant. Faux-finish walls with bad oil paintings and French themed posters are more typical of cheesy bistros than a Westside restaurant with a developed food and design palate. Confusing.
Culver Citizens are lucky to have Fraîche in the mix. Plus they have fresh fruit cocktails! But if it's oysters, juicy booze, and conversation I crave, I'm grateful that the Hungry Cat is our local spot.
9411 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232