Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Starting off the week right: Happy Hour at Fraiche

I love love love Happy Hours. There's no better way to blow off some steam after work, although who can complain, I have a pretty nice gig. An even better happy hour is one that ends past 7.30pm. During summer Mondays at Fraiche, happy hour runs until 10.30pm. A small selection of food is priced at $5, wine is $4 and beers are $3.

I used to frequent Fraiche when I was working in the area. In fact, I had my last-day-at-work party there last year. Fraiche is a Californian/French/Italian restaurant. It was really one of the first good restaurant in Culver City. Since its opening, Culver City has now flourished into a dining mecca with Akasha, Gyenari, Tender Greens and Le Saint Amour, all within a stones throw. The initial owners seemed to have figured out their game plan at launch: Thierry Perez ran the front of the house, and Jason Travi ruled the kitchen. When it first opened, the restaurant was on many critics' top lists, however the place was riddled with drama. Although most raved about the food, customer reviews were all over the board regarding the service. Fraiche was plagued with rumors of bad service and snooty attitude from Perez, which instigated an uproar on food blog Eater. The partnership recently ended and Perez is now planning to open a new restaurant in Culver City, called Ben Fatto.

The restaurant includes the dining area, bar area with tables, and an outside patio. We were able to procure couches outside.
My favorite drink is the Grape. The last few times that I had been here, they did not serve it. Apparently it wasn't in season.. Really??? When are grapes never in season? Oh well. Thank goodness it is back on! The Grape is made of vodka, crushed whole grapes and elderflower essence. It is delicious and can be dangerous because it is so easy to drink.

Monday nights = one free glass of sangria for women. Yay for me. Nice tall glass. The sangria was alright, a little lacking in the alcohol department. But good enough for a freebie.

They had a happy hour menu as well as a regular bar menu and a dinner menu. The Happy hour menu had select items (meatball sliders, shrimp cocktail, arancini, fondue and french fries). We ordered the sliders and arancini. Arancinis are little fried rice balls, usually filled with cheese or meat. This particular one have a little cheese in it.

The meatballs on the sliders were sitting in between a gougere puff. The meatball was a nice tiny size, cooked with some tomato sauce. The gougere was airy and delicious. This ranked pretty high on my list because it really hit the spot: a small bite size. Perfect snack food.

Our waitress named off some items from the Specials. Upon her recommendation, we ordered the gelee of tomato with mussels. We were a little disappointed with this dish. The mussels were a little flavorless, and the gelee tasted like tomato paste. Kindda taste like a jello V8. Yuck. Also, I think it should have been served with some bread, so that you can spread the gelee on something starchy.

We decided to order an entree from the dinner menu to share. Lamb spezzatino with ricotta gnocchi and gremolata was delicious. The lamb was cooked perfectly and the bland gnocchi was perfect with the tomato-based sauce. The flavors were very rich and the dish tasted just like a homecooked meal.

We also ordered a side of Pate, that came with crostini. The pate was rock solid. What's up with this? Shouldn't pate be somewhat spreadable? I could have done without this dish, which is disappointing because I typically love pate.

Our last dish was the Moules frites. The mussels were dismal and a little overcooked. The fries were not crispy. However the saving grace was the broth. It was delicious; buttery with a good seafood essence. I would order a bow of this broth if it was on the menu. It was also perfect for dipping bread.

We also ordered some additional wine and another cocktail, the Summer sage (vodka, sage sprigs and cucumber slices). The cocktail had cucumbers slices wrapped around the inside of the glass, which was a really pretty presentation.

Overall, decent bar menu. and a good after-work spot. Definitely not your typical hot wings and potato skins happy hour menu, which is a nice change. Out of all the menus, the dinner menu looked the best.

Hits: The Grape, mussel broth
Misses: Good happy hour deals although I wished there were more items on the happy hr. food menu, the mussels gelee, the pate
Rate: **

9411 Culver blvd.,
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 839-6800

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