Fraiche – 12/16/10
Fraiche Culver City
9411 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
Chef Benjamin Bailly is a bit of a blogger darling. During his short stint at Petrossian in West Hollywood, I read blog after blog post raving about his food. I’m not really a huge fan of caviar, and I don’t go out of my way to find a caviar-centric menu. As a result, while there were some dishes I absolutely loved (the truffle mac and cheese, for one), I don’t think I fully appreciated my meal at Petrossian.
In December, Bailly moved on to Fraiche Culver City, a restaurant that serves rustic Italian/French cooking. Definitely something in my comfort zone.
Danny of Kung Food Panda, a big advocate of Bailly’s food at Petrossian, organized a dinner of 18 bloggers/foodies to come sample Bailly’s latest menu.
Olives and Bread & Butter
Waiting for us at the table were some olives and bread & butter.
Piquillo Cheese Spread – Chorizo, Manchego
Tonnato Dip – Tuna, White Anchovy, Capers
Smoked Trout Rilletes – Lemon, Chives, Creme Fraiche
Chicken Liver Parfait – Green Apple Jelly
Olivade – Ricotta, Olives, Roasted Tomatoes
Eggplant Caviar – Raisin, Marcona Almonds
Also waiting for us at the table was a selection of potted meats and spreads with some crostini. With so many varieties and so many people (and pacing was important, this was going to be a long meal), I didn’t get a chance to sample each of these. However, my favorite was the piquillo spread for its sweet and savory combination of flavors.
Hamachi Tartare – Shaved Turnip, Lime, Espelette Pepper
This tartare didn’t quite look as I expected it to, with the fish sort of hidden. However, the taste was spot on with the hamachi’s light flavor accented by a little bit of turnip and lime citrus.
Vitello Tonnato – Veal Steak Tartare, Arugula, Parmesan
Next was a steak tartare. I thought some of the pieces of steak were a little chewy/sinewy for me, but overall was pretty good. The nuttiness of some parmesan and a good crostini completed the dish. Loved the arugula too.
Brussels Sprouts – Chorizo, Manchego, Dates, Almond Piquillo Vinaigrette
The brussels sprouts were blanched nicely, yielding a cool, crisp “al dente” texture. Just a little bit of chorizo flavor accented the brussels sprouts, while the vinaigrette helped to cut the richness of the sausage.
Bouchot Mussels – Fava Bean, Tomato, Chorizo
I found some of the mussels to be a little undercooked for me, but I thought this was a pretty solid dish. The chorizo and tomatoes were key elements in the flavorful broth.
Basil Risotto – Escargot, Lemon, Tomato
Unique looking risotto here – the basil gave it a brilliant green color. The risotto was rich and creamy with just enough basil flavor. The escargots were tender, and the lemon provided the right amount of citrus. I really enjoyed this dish.
Seared Foie Gras – Frisee, Rhubarb Pomegranate, Speculoos
I thought this was a beautifully prepared piece of liver. The texture was very rich and melt-in-your-mouth, with the pomegranate adding a little bit of welcome tartness.
Crispy Loup de Mer – Sunchokes Soubise, Crosnes, Salsify, Mushrooms, Bordelaise
This dish signaled the start of the entrees with an impressive presentation of the fish. I found the skin to be perfectly crispy, and the flesh to be really moist. Awesome. The mushrooms were a great accompaniment.
Taglieneri Neri – Maine Lobster, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil
I was really looking forward to the pastas here, and this first one got me excited. The pasta, made with squid ink, was a nice al dente, and the small chunks of sweet lobster were exactly what I wanted. The tomatoes and basil added just a little more flavor to this successful dish.
Lamb Papardelle – Tomato, Olives, Onetik Goat Cheese
The pappardelle was also al dente, and I enjoyed the chunks of meaty lamb dispersed throughout the pasta. The ragu was rich, hearty and pretty flavorful.
Hand Cut Maltagliati – Pork Ragu, Scallion, Gruyére
I enjoyed the rich pork ragu on this pasta as well, but I found the maltagliati pasta to be fairly stuck together. Maybe this was because we took too long taking pictures, as this wasn’t a problem with any other pasta. The scallions added a welcome crispness and freshness.
Bucatini Carbonara – Slow Poached Egg, Pancetta, Parmesan
Loved this dish. Carbonaras can so often be too rich, muddled in an overly-creamy, cheesy sauce. Not so here. The sauce was quite light actually, but didn’t skimp on the flavors of the layered cheese, pancetta and egg. The pasta was perfectly cooked as well. Probably my favorite dish of the night.
Truffle Burger – Onion Fondue, Boschetto, Truffle Aioli
Next was Chef Bailly’s famed truffle burger. This was prepared to a medium-well temperature so I didn’t think it was as juicy as it could’ve been. However, the flavors were all there with the arugula, onions and truffle aioli. The fries were fantastic – crispy on the outside and tender and fluffy on the inside.
Soft Polenta – Wild Mushrooms, Slow Poached Egg
I thought this polenta was nice and creamy, but a bit too overwhelmingly cheesy for me. I always enjoy a slow poached egg, though.
Praline Tiramisu – rum espresso, vanilla bean
Pot De Creme – Manjari Chocolate
Pot De Creme – Caramel
To start of desserts, a selection of pot de cremes and a tiramisu was served. The chocolate pot de creme was my favorite of these – rich with a delicious chocolate flavor.
Chocolate Tart – Tres Leches Gelato, Almond Crumble
I enjoyed this chocolate tart. It was combined with an almond crumble, which lended some texture, and the tres leches gelato was a brilliant flavor of gelato to go along with it. I thought these flavors were pretty well balanced.
Chocolate Coulant – Toffee, Peanut Butter Ice Cream
The peanut butter ice cream really separated this dish for me. Chocolate and peanut butter makes quite a combination, and it worked very well here.
Apple & Pear Clafoutis – Brown Butter, Candied Brioche, Caramel Ice Cream
Finally, this was the last dessert (I think we were all pretty full at this point). I enjoyed the cinnamon and apple flavors here, with the candied brioche being an interesting way to add some texture.
That was a lot of food. Chef Bailly definitely took good care of us (and our stomachs) and provided a good variety of dishes to sample the menu. Given the number of the dishes, there were some that I did not like as much, but overall this was a strongly executed meal that was quite delicious. For me, the pastas were my favorite (the loup de mer was very good too!), and the desserts displayed a nice mix of sweet finishing dishes.
I want it all again! Nice meeting you, even if briefly. 🙂
Nice meeting you again! I’m sure I’ll see you around soon..
Nice writeup! Great seeing you and chatting with you that night. Hope to catch up with you at an upcoming meal!
Thanks again for organizing this Danny. Great talking to you too, and I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around soon too!
I too loved the carbonara when I went – it was simple, but so beautifully prepared that it just sang. I actually named it one of my favorite dishes of 2010. Was so comforting it made me want to run right back for another bowl.
Reading around, it definitely looks like I wasn’t alone in my love for this dish! I’m gonna have to return soon, because there looks to be a lot of dishes yet to try…especially more pastas (my favorite!).