Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fraiche Culver City - A New French Sheriff Is In Town (Culver City)

Fraiche Culver City

Fraiche Culver City

A little over a year ago, I met a young French chef named Ben Bailly at a dinner hosted by Jo of MyLastBite at Petrossian in West Hollywood and was immediately hooked to his cooking. At first, I honestly didn't think much could come out of the kitchen of a caviar specialty shop, but boy, was I wrong! Fast forward a year from that dinner, the news of Chef Bailly's move to Fraiche in Culver City began to spread amongst the Los Angeles food community, I was excited by the move. While I'll miss his cooking with caviar, I was truly excited to see what Ben can do when he's able to form his own menu. In this post are my two recently dinners at Fraiche Culver City. Just a note, Chef Bailly is in the midst of changing some menu items, so some items seen here might not be available when you visit the restaurant.

Complementary OlivesChampagne

Top: Complementary Olives. Bottom: Champagne

Olives are always given gratis when seated, and while I don't eat olives, my dining companions always seem to enjoy these. What I do enjoy are champagne and the various cocktails Fraiche's Bartender Kiowa Bryan churn out for my trips there. Just a few recommendations on my part. I thoroughly enjoy Ben's Breakfast, Poison Ivy, The Grape, and citrus drink (I cannot remember the name) with an absinthe rinse. Also, just to note, the Happy Hour cocktail drinks are $6 and beers on draft I believe are $3. What a great deal for Culver City!

4 RillettesPate and Smoked Trout Rillette

Various Rillettes

The rillettes have become a staple during my visits here. There are 6 rillettes available, but during my last visit, I was able to try the new pate rillette that's likely to replace the chicken liver version. The smoked trout has always been my favorite, as I've enjoyed the flavors of the trout. Also, the piquillo cheese spread was also a winner, as the spicy flavors of the cheese complement with the bread exceptionally well.

Hamachi Tartare

Hamachi Tartare - Shaved Turnip. Lime. Espelette Pepper

Here, we have a dish that we're probably more used to at a Japanese restaurant, but I quite enjoy the version served by Chef Bailly. The hamachi was accented well by the use of the lime and the slight heat of the espelette pepper. Using the turnip as a sandwich-like device was a nice touch that added a nice refreshing element to the dish.

Vitello Tonnato

Vitello Tonnato - Veal Steak Tartare. Arugula. Parmesan

There was definitely a change compared to the beef tartare with carviar that I was used to having made by Chef Bailly. The veal tartare was tender and the tuna based tonnato sauce added a nice contrast to the dish. A definite enjoyable dish.

Brussel Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts - Chorizo. Manchego. Dates. Almond. Piquillo Vinaigrette

This is probably my favorite salad at Fraiche. I enjoy the flavors of the chorizo, manchego cheese, dates, and the piquillo cheese vinaigrette all meshed together with the brussel sprouts. The flavors are strong, but it complement well together.

Belgian Endives

Belgian Endives - Coppa. Apples. Pecan. Goat Cheese. Truffle Vinaigrette

This was another salad dish I adored. I enjoyed the flavors of the coppa, the apple, the crunchy texture of the pecan, and of course, the strong flavors of the truffle vinaigrette all combined together with the refreshing endives. This was definitely a winner for my dining mates as well.

Frisee aux Lardons

Frisee Aux Lardons - Oeuf Pane. Bacon. Bleu Cheese

Bacon and crispy soft boiled egg, what can go wrong with that? Though I don't eat bleu cheese, the rest of the ingredients were delicious!

Bouchot Mussels

Bouchot Mussels - Fava Beans. Tomato. Chorizo

This was the first time I had mussels served this way and I'm a bit indifferent on it. Although I did enjoy the taste of chorizo in the dish, I did think the tomato was slightly too overpowering. Though it might be more of a personal bias towards too much tomatoes in a dish.

Seared Foie Gras

Seared Foie Gras - Frisée. Rhubarb. Pomegranate. Speculoos

Next, we have a perfectly cooked foie gras with a sweet/sour flavors of the rhubarb and pomegrante. To balance the richness of the foie gras, the use of a sweet ingredient is vital and I thought it's used wisely here. It's hard to go wrong with a foie gras dish in my book.

Basil Risotto

Basil Risotto - Escargo. Lemon. Tomatoes

Here we have a basil risotto, which was quite noticeable with its neon green color from the basil. The risotto itself was well cooked and delicious. The addition of the escargot added a nice flavor and texture element to the dish.

Sunchoke Risotto with Truffles

Sunchoke Risotto with Truffles

I'll be honest here, I really liked this dish. Maybe it's the addition of the truffles? That probably didn't hurt, but this was definitely a hit at our table. As of right now, it's an off menu item, but I hope Chef Bailly would make the addition to the menu soon. The risotto had wonderful flavors with or without the truffles, so try it!

Taglierini Neri

Taglierini Neri - Maine Lobster. Cherry Tomatoes. Basil

This is another delicious dish. Here we have squid ink pasta topped with Maine lobsters, basil and a lobster foam. It was definitely a favorite with most of us at the table. If you're coming to order an a la carte dish, this is definitely one to consider.

Lamb Papardelle

Lamb Papardelle - Tomato. Olives. Onetik Goat Cheese

Chef Bailly definitely cook up some damn tasty pasta dishes, and this was no exception. The hearty flavors of the lamb went exceptionally well with the tomatoes and goat cheese. Of course, the papardelle was cooked well and the flavors of the sauce went with the pasta perfectly.

Bucatini Carbonara

Bucatini Carbonara - Slow Poached Egg. Pancetta. Parmesan

This bucatini carbonara was definitely not a light affair. To say the flavors were rich would be an understatement. The rich flavors of the soft poached egg and the parmesan went well with the bucatini pasta. In addition, I loved the flavors of the pancetta, though who would really have a problem with anything with bacon or pancetta added to it?

Truffle Spaghetti

Truffle Spaghetti - Wild Mushrooms

Again, truffle spaghetti, can one get enough truffles? The answer would be a definitely No! The flavors of the sauce, highlighted with the mushroom and the truffle was definitely heavenly. The smell of this sauce was worth the order alone. Again, this dish is not yet on the menu, so I'm not sure if it would be offered down the road by Chef Bailly.

Pea Ravioli

Pea Ravioli - Ricotta Cheese

I think I'm running out of adjectives here. I'll take one from Amy of theroamingbelly. These raviolis were "sweet little pockets for my big mouth." Delicious!

Rabbit Garganelli

Rabbit Garganelli - Leffe. Mustard. Prunes. Tarragon

I love rabbits. I love eating them even more. Sorry animal rights activists, wherever you are. I'm Chinese, and I don't care about your fight. Animals are great, especially if they're a tasty one. This above dish was actually from one of Chef Bailly's father's recipes. The use of prunes, and mustard to combine with the rabbit and the garganelli pasta was genius. What a great dish! Just ask for the rabbit pasta when you're at Fraiche next time!

Hand Cut Maltagliati

Hand Cut Maltagliati - Pork Ragù. Scallion. Gruyère

This is the last pasta dish of this post and it's definitely another flavorful one. The scallions came across as an important element to cut the richness of the pork and gruyere. Surprisingly, I thought it tasted even better the next day when I had it for lunch.

Seared Daurade Royale

Seared Daurade Royale - Braised Endives. Orange. Black Rice. Farro

Onward to meat and seafood courses! Here we have a perfectly cooked daurade with flavor complements from the oranges, black rice and endives. A perfect blend of tastes and texture. Very nice!

Sear Scallops

Seared Scallops - Cauliflower Puree. Roasted Cauliflower

The scalloops were seared perfectly and I really enjoyed the cauliflower puree with the addition of the roasted cauliflowers. A well executed dish to say the least.

Crispy Loup de Mer

Crispy Loup de Mer - Sunchokes Soubise. Crosnes. Salsifi Mushrooms. Bordelaise

The loup de mer is probably my favorite dish outside the pasta menu. The three times I've had this fish were always cooked perfectly. The skin has been crispy, the fish itself was flavorful, and the accompaniment sunchoke soubise and the mushroom added a nice flavor to the dish. Another highly recommended course.

Duck Confit

Duck Confit - Farro. Black Rice. Wild Mushroom. Baby Spinach

I like rabbits and I like ducks. I especially love eating both of them. The duck confit at Fraiche was fantastic. If only I wasn't stuffed that night, I would have grabbed the darn thing by its bones and gnawed on it. I also enjoyed the bed of farro the duck was placed onto of. A pretty delicious dish I have to say.

Braised Beef Cheeks

Braised Beef Cheeks - Celery Root Puree. Horseradish Gremolata. Barolo Sauce

Tender, beef cheeks. Quite a good way to end the meat and seafood portion of the menu. The star of this dish surprisingly was the celery root puree. I truly adored it. This was definitely a flavorful dish.

Truffle Burger

Truffle Burger - Onion Fondue. Boschetto. Truffle Aioli. Egg

The truffle burger is something found on the bar menu, but I'm glad to have tried this at Fraiche. The burger itself was truly trufflicious, if there's such a word. I loved the fried egg option here and also enjoyed the onion fondue added to the burger. The only suggestion I'd have to say, which wasn't a problem on my first visit here was the fact the burger might be slightly overcooked. I definitely prefer my burger medium rare, though it really doesn't hurt the flavors of the burger in anyways. This burger cost $12, a steal in my opinion. This definitely has to be one of the best burger I've had here in Los Angeles.

Soft Polenta

Soft Polenta - Wild Mushrooms. Slow Poached Egg

This will be the last savory course of the night, the soft polenta. The mix of creamy polenta, wild mushrooms, and a soft poached egg, what can really go wrong with this combination? Not much from what I could tell, it was delicious!

For the sake of your reading convenience and my writing sanity, I'm going to post the pictures of the dessert and a final summary in the end.

Caramel Pot De Crème. Meyer Lemon Pot De Crème

Caramel Pot De Crème. Meyer Lemon Pot De Crème

Manjari Chocolate Pot De Crème. Chestnut Tiramisu

Manjari Chocolate Pot De Crème. Chestnut Tiramisu

Pistachio Creme Brulee

Pistachio Creme Brulee - Apricot Sorbet. Rosemary Crumble

Panettone Bread Pudding

Panettone Bread Pudding - Gianduja. Hazelnut. Mascarpone Gelato

Chocolate Coulant

Chocolate Coulant - Toffee. Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Chocolate Tart

Chocolate Tart - Tres Leches Gelato. Almond Crumble

Apple & Pear Clafoutis

Apple & Pear Clafoutis - Brown Butter. Candied Brioche. Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Key Lime Tart

Key Lime Tart - Grapefruit Sorbet

In terms of the desserts I've had at Fraiche, there were definitely a few that stood out. While I did enjoy all the varieties of dessert I've tried here, I definitely have to say the key lime tart was fantastic. I also enjoyed the various pot de crème, especially the caramel one. Also, the pistachio creme brulee I've always enjoyed since Chef Bailly's stint at Petrossian. Finally, the chocolate coulant was definitely one for chocolate lovers. You can't really beat warm chocolate lava cake with a peanut butter ice cream. In addition, Chef Bailly will be bringing back his pop rock panna cotta to Fraiche, so I'll hopefully try that out on my next visit.

In the end, I'm impressed with what Chef Ben Bailly has done to transform the menu at Fraiche in Culver City. While I know there are definitely a few people who yearn for the old Italian menu that was available in the previous regime, I say give Chef Bailly a chance to show you what he could do. I'm loving the rustic French menu that's available here, and I'm really happy that he's willing to change some dishes on the menu due to seasonal ingredients, as well as to the tastes of his clientele. While I've probably tried most of the dishes here, there are more stuff to be discovered. Come by for happy hour, lunch, dinner, or hell, even for brunch during the weekend. I enjoyed my first brunch experience recently as seen here from cattycritic, and I can't wait to go back a second time for brunch. Trust the Panda, check out Fraiche!

Fraiche - Culver City
9411 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 839-6800
Fraiche in Los Angeles on Fooddigger


catty said...

WOWZA. All of Ben's dishes look amazing and totally up my alley! The truffle risotto and truffle spaghetti reminds me of a couple of dishes I've had in London recently (at Gauthier and L'Anima, respectively). The truffle burger looks super cute! Great write up and that's a LOT of dishes :)

Pinoy Panda said...

Excellent post KFP! Glad you finally blogged about Frâiche. Can't wait to taste Chef Ben Bailly's new menu. It's great that we were able to taste almost all the existing menu items as well as some fantastic off menu creations. I know we'll be back many more times.

Anna A. said...

Did you eat everything on the menu?! Wow, it all looks delicious, especially the sunchoke and truffle risotto.

Eddie Lin said...

The pastas are killing me! I've been thinking about going. I'd love to check this place out now. Nice work.

Diana said...

That crispy loup de mer was probably the best piece of fish I had in 2010 - so perfectly cooked! I love that crispy skin - could eat it like a potato chip!

KrisDub said...

I love your Bailly love. I'm DYING for Monday!

Gastronomer said...

I love Friache so much! You are such a good PR dude. Wagstaff should hire you ;-)

weezermonkey said...

Thanks so much for inviting me! It was so fabulous. Count me as one of many of Chef Bailly's adoring fans!

bagnatic said...

if there was a group of bailly bitches, you would be the tour guide. i imagine you holding a little flag in your hand with a picture of a truffle on it.

anyways, always good to nosh with you danny. thanks for organizing such a spectacular meal...and i want that darn truffle burger stat!

Darin said...

Man, talk about a complete post! There are so many more dishes I have to try..I'm getting hungry when I should be sleeping soon (damn)!

Bonnibella said...

An extensive number of dishes you got to try off the menu. Wish I had a chance to try his caviar dish before the move.

Pandalicious said...

I'm so coming here ASAP!! the risotto with truffles, bucatini and pasta with truffles look amaze. Way to go, Chef Bailly!

Nomsnotbombs said...

Great post! I'm happy to see you *trying* to blog more :)

Can't wait to go back with the KFP and try more dishes...although I might want the truffle burger again.

Kung Food Panda said...

Catty: Although we're not going there on your trip from the UK, maybe you can do a quick meal there. It's worth the stop.

Remil: Haha, I think we'll be back in less than 24 hours.

Anna: I think there are a few dishes I haven't tried, but I think I've tried most of what's to offer at Fraiche as of now.

Eddie: If anything, get the pasta. They're all quite delicious!

Diana: Seriously, it was delicious!

Kung Food Panda said...

Kristen: I'm glad you'll be able to try it on Monday. I'll see you there, though I'll be there for HH.

Cathy: Haha, I'm not a good PR, I don't take on shit restaurants.

Weezermonkey: I'm glad you enjoyed it and hopefully you'll take Mr. Monkey with you next time!

Amy: Hahaha! That comment put a big smile on my face :)

Kung Food Panda said...

Darin: This post took me forever. I think I'm lagging in terms of blogging speed!

Bonni: Ya, there's definitely no caviar here, but there's definitely truffles!

Amy: Get the pasta dishes for sure!

Misty: Ya, come with me next time. There will be plenty of next time(s)!

the nomster said...

OH MY GOD. I'm drowning in my own saliva right now. LOOKS AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can't wait to try Chef Bailly's stuff here!

Kung Food Panda said...

Marilyn: I'm definitely going to go back soon, but probably post-NYC. I'll definitely keep you updated!