Several years ago, downtown Culver City was a crumb of an area, dotted with downtown dreariness, except for a few restaurants that clamored for the coveted tourist dollar. Fraiche was one of them, and remains a benchmark for fine dining for several reasons. The rustic French and Italian offerings are consistently top drawer, the service is impeccable, and the atmosphere transports you away from the belly of the labor crunch into a sweet dream of gastro-loveliness.
Executive chef Elderoy Arendse, who once shadowed the renowned Jason Travi, has clearly carved out his own terrain at the restaurant. Emphasizing market-fresh and seasonal ingredients, the dining pleasures of this place are hard to beat.
However, this is not a place to count your pennies. Glasses of wine are upward from $10, and most entrees are around $25. If you're strapped for cash, go up the street where you can choose from many places that are more affordably priced. But if cost isn't a consideration, plant yourself inside or on the romantic patio, and prepare to be ushered along a culinary journey.
Fraiche reminds me of my many trips to Europe, with its rustic décor taking me back to the countryside of Italy and France. The earthy hues inside the restaurant are accented by candlelight, and the open space showcases the artists in the kitchen working their magic. But the food … ahhhhhh ...
This evening, we began with the Baby Beets—quartered pink cuties with hazelnuts and mache layered over a creamy house made ricotta ($15). I always gravitate to this sweet and succulent appetizer, and it never fails to deliver.
We'd heard that the Duck Rillette was a must and at $6, it was one of the more affordable offerings. I don't usually care for this sort of thing, but after my trip to France this summer, my appreciation for spreadable edibles is at an all-time high.
First timers may enjoy one of Fraiche's signature dishes, the Monkfish "Francaise" with spinach, white wine, potato puree and shallots ($25). Fish fans will also delight in the Striped Bass, laced with cauliflower, golden raisins, almonds, capers and mushroom nage ($25). It's a beautiful bounty of color with an orgy of flavor.
Tonight, there was also a pasta special with mounds of truffles, and a real bargain for only $21. Truffles usually escalate any dining bill, and this was a welcome surprise. Sometimes truffles can be overpowering—they often make me feel as though I'm inhaling perfume—but this was a nice medley of flavor, color and texture.
A previous journey to Fraiche introduced me to its Beef Tartare, with bacon sabayon, chives, and arugula ($17). The portion was enough for two, and unique in its presentation.
Fraiche continues to be a Culver City winner, thanks to the expertise of owners Keith Fox and Amir Ohebsion. If you're so inclined, you can also indulge in their Santa Monica location, which is equally divine.