Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fraîche, Culver City - Good Lunch Option for Under $15

Fraiche Culver City Patio

If you're tired of Tender Greens, Honey's Kettle Fried Chicken, Sushi Zo, Sushi Karen and the numerous Thai/Chinese restaurants in Culver City, Fraîche might be a great option – with a lunch menu that fits snugly under $15. Frank Bruni of New York Times rated Fraîche as his #6 favorite 'coast-to-coast' restaurant, and stated that he could eat their salads everyday. I've been passing by this place for months and it wasn't until Jeni told me how much she liked the food, that I decided to give, Fraîche, a little attention. This is the kind of place that would make Rachael Ray flash her vibrant, $40-a-day, Joker-like smile. That smile.

I met up my friend TN, aka TyTown, on a Friday afternoon here at Fraîche, who's been a fan ever since having dinner here. And joining us, was our new Canon 40D only a few days old. Jeni & I had our Nikon D70 stolen during a trip to the Quintana Roo-side of Mexico. Under-$15 meal, long lunch break with beer, perfect daylight, and a new Canon – conditions were perfect. Oh yeah, and lunch with a good friend.

Fraiche Culver City Plate

I usually don't pay this much attention to such commonplace objects like plates, forks and knives. But they served as perfect subjects for practice shots.

Fraiche Culver City Bread

And have you ever heard of this thing known as bread. Apparently it's made of flour, yeast, oil and salt. Mixed together and baked at a certain temperature, it takes shape into this! Apparently, Jesus was a big fan of this. Seriously, more practice-shot fodder.

Fraiche Culver City Belgian Beer

Any lunch break that is bound to last more than a hour and a half is usually preceded by a nice, crisp beer. Forgot the name of this, but maybe my beer connoisseur friend can guess it's name simply by looking at it.

Fraiche Culver City Burrata Red Peppers

Burrata Cheese with Roasted Red Peppers & Balsamic
We started out with this per Jeni's recommendation. I can never say no to such a soft, roll-your-eyes-back cheese like burrata. The burrata cheese is dolloped generously over vibrant, red peppers, still shiny from lounging in a pool of high quality EVOO. Garnished with thinly-sliced red onions and parsley, and drizzled with the Italian equivalent of soy sauce. Thought this was very good, but definitely not the best burrata I've eaten. This was a bit more 'cottage-cheese' like in texture but still retained creaminess.

Fraiche Culver City Royale with Cheese

Royale with Cheese
Any fan of Pulp Fiction will do a double take upon seeing this written in the menu. The sound of it immediately causes you to salivate. The prime beef patty is served with gruyere cheese in a sage/cheese bread which resembles a scone. Condiments are served on the side. I loved this, especially the bread. It was the perfect balance of sage and cheese and exhibited a nice toastiness to it. As an LA burger, I put this in line right after Father's Office' burger. Not sure how it compares to The Counter or Apple Pan, so if there are any burger connoisseurs, would love to hear what you think. I myself only eat 3-4 burgers a year.

Fraiche Culver City Fries

Fraîche Fries
These are fries done nicely... 36-24-36 fries. Fried beautifully with skin still on. And the perfect amount – about 25-30 pieces. I hate when a restaurant dumps a crap load of Sysco french fries next to a burger or two pieces of battered fish. Proportions are good!

Fraiche Culver City Albacore Sandwich

Seared Albacore Tuna, Black Olive, Anchovy & Egg Sandwich (Pan Bagnet)
Fish. Olives. Anchovies. Eggs. I'm sold. You can separate these individually in a tray and I'd still be happy. This was one wholesome looking sandwich. Thick cut of nicely-seared albacore, salty anchovies, olives and my favorite, eggs. This was good but probably my last time ordering this. The tuna was cut a little too thick and didn't have enough salt. Where is my Maggi sauce when I need it?

Overall, this is one solid lunch spot. With food that looks like this, you'd expect a lot of tilted heads and raised nostrils – not one bit. I felt like I was on vacation here... enjoying my food and crisp beer. And the best thing about it is that the lunch menu is pretty much under $15. Now I have a place to celebrate paycheck-day!

Fraîche
9411 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
310-839-6800
http://www.fraicherestaurantla.com/
Read more!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Father's Office II, Culver City - The Sang Yoon Bleu Cheese Burger Legacy Continues

Father's Office II Culver City

Sequels. Usually a thing that's hit or miss. Karate Kid. Police Academy. Die Hard. Van Dumb & Steven Segal movies... you either love them or you hate them. And a big can of worms is opened with various opinions. With all the talk over the last year about Father's Office opening a second location, the question isn't whether or not it'll be better than the Santa Monica location... the question is "when the f*ck is it actually opening?" And finally, after god knows how long, Chef Sang Yoon has opened up chapter 2 in his restaurant career with Father's Office II this week, located in the Helms Bakery Building in Culver City, or to foodies, as CuCi. I myself, call it Construction City, because things never seem to get done here thanks to Cal Trans.

At exactly 5:07 pm, my coworker RM, Jeni and I quickly turned on to Helms Avenue. It was only the 2nd day of the grand opening and we eagerly stuck our heads out the window to see if there were herds of people outside. And.... NO! No ridiculous Best Buy line-around-the-building crap.

We walked up and were given a warm welcome by the door man. Yes, a door man. "Welcome to Father's Office." Once we walked in, it was immediately understood why this establishment had taken so long to open. It's with Chef Yoon's careful planning, immaculate design and pure passion and craft that make Father's Office an experience of its own. In front of us stood the bar, made out of beautifully, lacquered wood. Behind, we saw about 35+ taps on both the left and right side of the back wall, making it a total of 70+ taps ready to imbibe us with goodness. All the bartenders and servers wore black t-shirts with a simple "F.O..." graphic. Why there are thought dots... I don't know. Maybe a breath of relief that it's finally opened?

Father's Office II Shirt

Father's Office II Bar1

Father's Office II Draft

35+ Delicious Choices of Beer
Chef Yoon is definitely a beer connoisseur, or in proper form, a cerevisaphile. I felt like a kid in a candy store as I slowly studied the various taps from left to right. Most I have heard of, yet it's still amazing to see all this godsend in one place.

Father's Office II Bar3

Non-Beer Items
In addition to beer, Chef Yoon has a liking for tequilas, whiskies and gin – further proof that Koreans love to drink. If you look carefully between the shelves, you'll see what looks like a digital indicator. He's got humidifying fans installed above the bottles so that each spirit rests in an optimum level for your enjoyment.

Father's Office II Bar2

Father's Office II Beer1

Delirium Tremens, one solid Belgian beer.

Father's Office II Beer3

Inversion IPA. Never heard of it, but tasted great.

Father's Office II Beer2

Hitachino Classic Ale. A solid Japanese beer made in Hitachi, Japan, the same city as the major electronics brand.

Father's Office II Smoked Eel

Smoked Eel with Poached Egg
Yes, all everyone talks about is the Bleu Cheese burger at FO, but what about the lonely, neglected stepchildren on the menu... like the Smoked Eel with Poached Egg. Man, I love this dish. First off it's smoked and it has my most favorite ingredient in the world, eggs. I poked the poached egg with the tine of my fork and watched the yolk slowly ooze out like a premature volcano. I mixed the thinly sliced red onions, poached egg with the horseradish/creme fraîche and cut a piece of the eel. The eel actually required me to use a knife to cut through it, a sign that the fish had great texture. I love this dish. It's a perfect balance of smokiness, temperature and texture. *high-5* Sang Yoon.

Father's Office II Lamb Skewers

Lamb Skewers with Roasted Eggplant and Radicchio
My vegan coworker RM ordered this. Which doesn't make any sense, but he in general, doesn't make a lot of sense at all. Anyway, loved this dish as well. I could taste cayenne, paprika, cumin and oregano... very Mediterranean. The lamb was so fresh that it didn't have any gameyness to it. If you told me it was beef after about 6 beers, I'd believe you.

Father's Office II Yam Fries

Yam Fries "A La Cart"
Yet another food pun. But what a great dish it is. These taste better than a lot of the yam fries I've eaten in Koreatown cafes. Nicely seasoned with a side of Cabreles Bleu Cheese aioli. *High-5 Sang Yoon*

Father's Office II Burger1

Father's Office Bleu Cheese Burger
One time at the Santa Monica FO, my friend and I argued over how many burgers FO sells in one day. In about one hour starting at 12 pm, we saw nearly 30 orders go out. And it wasn't even busy at all. Any idea how many they sell in a day at the new location? My guess is 400 on an average day. 400 x $12 = $4,800. *High-5 Sang Yoon*

Father's Office Sang Yoon

And how does the FO sequel pan out? I think it's going to be one of the biggest profiters in Culver City. FO2 is larger, offers more beer and is located at the right place at the right time, when Culver City is booming as a culinary pit-stop in Los Angeles. Next question for Chef Sang Yoon, will there be a 3rd sequel in the near future? And also Sang Yoon, can you add wireless to FO2 so that I could tell Jeni that I'm not actually drinking beer and working at The Office? She'll believe me.

If you find yourself waiting in a long line at FO2 on the weekend, try and stop by Sue Moore's tasty lamb-casing, beef and pork sausages. Check out Jeni's posting on FO2, on why her father thinks that good girls shouldn't drink beer.

Father's Office II
3229 Helms Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 815-9820
Read more!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Let's Be Frank, Culver City - A Sweet Lady & Her Little Hot Dog Stand in Culver City

Let's Be Frank Sue Moore

The many restaurants sprouting in the nouveau Culver City area, or as Delicious Life refers to as 'CuCi', give you the license to empty the wallet and fatten the waistline from low-priced food at Honey Kettle to higher-end food at the wonderful Fraîche. That's great, but I find myself at the lower end of the spectrum, scrapping away at quality places like Del Taco. I was driving around one time on my lunch break, spying out Sang Yoon's long-awaited project known as Father's Office, a much larger sister to the favorite Santa Monica spot. In the corner of my eye, I spotted out a hot dog stand in full operation, with a few people littered around on it. And then I remembered my friend telling me about her new culinary fad... a place called Let's Be Frank. Ah – this must be it. But what's so special about this hot dog?

How about a hot dog that is actually made from grass-fed beef, uses lamb casing, contains healthy stuff like 600 mg. of Omega-3 fatty acids which can lower the risk of coronary heart disease and are nitrate-free? When's the last time you thought about that while chomping on your $4 danger dog in a drunken state on the corner of Western and Pico Blvd? I certainly don't remember.

Let's Be Frank Culver City

Let's Be Frank Menu

So I was sold – parked my horse and carriage in the lot and ran up to the modest red and yellow stand. One look at the 2-item menu, and I knew I had a slight crush. I love places with small menus, like Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada. I ordered one of each and stood back to watch Sue Moore, the owner, grill my $5 sausage.

Sue Moore brings her sausage-making skills down to Culver City from NorCal, where she worked as a meat forager for the renowned Chez Panisse in Berkeley... one of the first places in California to focus on seasonal ingredients and offers a different menu every single day. And Sue is one sweet lady. She made sure I got onions the way I liked them, super caramelized!

Let's Be Frank Condiments

Let's Be Frank offers the simple yet substantial condiments for maximizing the sausage experience. In addition to the usual suspects, she offers her own homemade mustard, sweeeeeeet relish and sauerkraut. On this day, she had already run out of her pimiento de padron peppers. Boo.

Let's Be Frank Onions


Let's Be Frank Bratwurst

The Brat Dog $5
I tried the bratwurst first and immediately tasted the essence of lamb on the sausage. Very nice. I never knew that lamb could be used for encasing the sausage and it really took the standard pork sausage to another level. While she was grilling the bratwurst, I asked Sue to grill it a little bit longer but told me that the lamb casing is more sensitive to heat and could possibly explode. Wouldn't be too fun. This was good.

Let's Be Frank Beef Dog

The Frank Dog $5
But my favorite was the grass-fed beef. The beef definitely had a different taste due to being grass-fed, and again the lamb casing took this to another level: a slight aroma of lamb and some of the best 'snap' I've ever had. Every time I bit into this, the pieces came off like log bits. Excellent.

If Sue can set up her little cart till 7 or 8 pm, she'll definitely get a lot of customers waiting in line at Father's Office. You can't resist the smell of lamb and grilled onions. The prices are steeper than your usual Costco, Pink's or Danger Dog cart... but quality never goes unnoticed. You get what you pay for at Let's Be Frank. Next time I come, I'll be bringing my own Valentina hot sauce, mayonnaise and maybe some Maggi sauce.

No jokes about the 'happiness' level of the dogs please.

Let's Be Frank Dogs (Dogs Gone Good)
Washington/Helms Avenue @ Helms Bakery Complex
Culver City, CA 90232
Tuesday - Sunday 11 am - 3 pm??? Read more!

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