Eatin’ in Southern California
Jeff needed to work in Orange County/Los Angeles and took the opportunity to try a few restaurants that had been on his radar. Two James Beard finalists in particular sounded interesting, Wilshire and Fraîche. Both were reported to excel in “New American” cuisine, using fresh ingredients and exemplary cooking technique. He is happy to report that reality met expectations and both meals were excellent.
Fraîche has two locations, one in Culver City and one in Santa Monica on the 3rd Avenue Promenade. Jeff visited the Culver City outpost. It was an inviting space with a casual vibe on a chilly (for LA) Tuesday evening. He started with what would be the best part of the meal; the braised brisket was served with fingerling potatoes over a milky cheese fondue. The beef was fork tender and when combined with the cheese it was an inventive and tasty treat. For the entrée, Monkfish filets were seared crispy outside and moist and tender inside and served over a bed of spinach and whipped potatoes puree with a lemony white wine sauce surrounding the stack. For a diner who rarely orders fish, this was a treat. Dessert was a beautifully formed Chocolate Coulant (basically, a chocolate cake with a warm oozing center of chocolate) served with toffee and peanut butter gelato. It was wonderful!
The next evening, Jeff moved to Santa Monica and despite the temptation to visit the second Fraîche, he and a business associate/friend visited Wilshire on Wilshire Boulevard. Jeff’s friend had dined their before and suggested the semi-enclosed rear patio, that despite the chill in the air was kept toasty warm with portable space heaters. Alfresco dining in November is something new for a Cleveland boy like Jeff!
The meal was excellent. Jeff started with the Little Gem Salad that consisted of greens with cherry tomatoes, bleu cheese, egg and small cubes of excellent bacon. Each forkful was a flavor treat. His dining partner ordered Maggie’s Farm Caesar Salad and pronounced it tangy, aggressive and good. Jeff found a number of things on the menu that sounded good, but the warmth of the Wild Boar Pappardelle was too much of an allure. It hit the spot with al dente noodles and a nice mixture of vegetables and flavorful meat. His friend had what would have been his second choice. The special of the evening was venison loin and it was a beautifully cut with perfect coloring and none of the gamey flavor than can often plague this dish. Dessert was fresh fruit with passion-fruit whipped cream over a cookie base and it was perfect.
Travel can be so much more enjoyable when a good meal ends the day. After battling Los Angeles travel for a few hours each day, both Fraîche and Wilshire proved to be wonderful codas to hectic days.
http://fraicherestaurantla.com/ 9411 Culver Boulevard Culver City, CA 310-839-6800
http://wilshirerestaurant.com/2454 Wilshire Boulevard Santa Monica, CA 90403 310-586-1707