Bonnie Modugno, MS, RD - I Should have listened to Chow Hound
I actually made a reservation for dinner last night. Our Anniversary. It has been months, many months since I made the effort. I don’t know when I will do it again. The meal at Fraiche in Santa Monica was a big disappointment. I should have paid more attention to that posting on Chow Hound.
Yesterday afternoon I scanned Chow Hound at the last minute for inspiration. I was frustrated that most of the recommendations were in West Hollywood, downtown or environs that weren’t going to work. My husband wanted to drive home from downtown and go together. I knew I was not going to get him in the car again for any significant distance. I opted for a restaurant we had been to a couple of years ago.
WHEN ONE FRAICHE IS NOT THE SAME AS THE OTHER FRAICHE
Fraiche was then a very hot ticket in Culver City, and friends from Pasadena called us at the last minute to join them. Their plans had fallen through with another couple. We were delighted to throw on our fancy clothes to meet them, a bonus without the hassle of crossing town.
The meal was all it was chalked up to be. I can’t even remember what we ordered. I still remember the quiet stillness after tasting each appetizer or entree. That moment when I breathed in the full experience and sighed. Everything was delicious, and the service and execution was notable.
Last night was not. Not delicious, not notable. The service was more disruptive than anything else. I was left wondering why the well meaning staff insisted on refilling my water after every two sips.
I tried the Poached Peach Salad and kept trying to understand it. The ingredients did not work together, at least they didn’t last night. There was no sense of compliment, the flavors and textures were fighting each other. I kept trying to taste something delicious. Most of the salad went back to the kitchen.
My braised short ribs were decent, but I didn’t come to the restaurant for decent. They were succulent but over seasoned. The sauce completely overwhelmed the chard that was completely hidden by the meat. I just saw a pool of brown on my plate. The nice compliment of polenta took the edge off of the intensity of the short ribs, but i came home to enjoy a fresh peach and latte.
FEEDING ME DOESN”T NEED TO BE A COMPETITION
I am kind of done with chefs and restaurants that over reach and seem to be in an incessant scramble to create the next amazing taste. I don’t want to have to pay for that competition especially when it is not working. Amazing food doesn’t need to be so busy, so pretentious. It is almost as if I can taste when the restaurant loses focus.
I suppose that is why when we do go out to eat, it’s pretty casual and mostly ethnic. It’s food that celebrates fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables. We enjoy many within walking distance of our home: Lebanese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai and authentic Mexican (not the Americanized versions with sour cream and guacamole on everything). They are all within a few blocks. They work, especially on that day when there is not enough time, energy or inspiration to be in my own kitchen.
When I do want to go out for a special occasion, I don’t mind paying for the experience. But it is painful to pay handsomely for mediocre food. That happens too often in this city. In the meantime, I am looking forward to being back in my kitchen tonight.