I’d been planning on it all week – announcing to anyone that would listen that, no, I wouldn’t be ordering the brioche French toast or the skillet baked eggs with goat cheese or that truffle burger that everyone keeps talking (and raving) about.
I was going to be “healthy.” Restrained. The opposite of what I’d been the last time I’d dined at Fraiche Restaurant in Culver City when I’d enjoyed an epic 3-hour-long, 15-course meal prepared by new Executive Chef Benjamin Bailly.
It had been an amazing dinner – one of the best of 2010 – but obviously not something that I could repeat on a regular basis unless I wanted to spend four hours a day at Bar Method every day for the rest of my life.
So even when I read my horoscope in the LA Times the morning of our brunch, I was still undeterred from my mission to order the farro salad with black rice, goat cheese, cucumber, and tomatoes ($14).
I laughed in the face of the ominous message, even snorting a bit as I read it out loud to my mother, who I was visiting in Orange County that morning.
“You've been so good — sticking to your diet and to your budget, too. So let yourself indulge a little bit now.” I recited with a mocking tone.
“I don’t care what it says,” I continued. “I’m still getting the farro.”
So I did. Both Amy from the Roaming Belly and I did.
Upon receipt of said salads, however, we immediately regretted our seemingly respectable decisions. The black rice grains interspersed between the nutty nuggets of farro were almost entirely uncooked – hard and impossible to chew through. The chicken that we had added for $6 was cubed and similarly unappetizing – not the lean strips of grilled meat that we were expecting. Unable to get past the texture of the overly al dente rice, we quickly summoned our waitress, who graciously offered to replace the offending dishes with different ones.
Amy went for soft polenta with a slow poached egg and wild mushrooms ($12), and after a moment’s hesitation during which I contemplated not getting anything at all, I followed the lead of two of my smiling dining companions and ordered the famed truffle burger with onion fondue, boschetto, arugula, and truffle aioli ($12).
My decision to submit to my horoscope and let myself “indulge a little bit” was immediately rewarded with a well-executed gourmet burger. While I would have appreciated a touch more char on the medium-cooked patty, all the components work well together. The delicate essence of truffle in the truffle aioli and in the boschetto, an Italian cheese made with sheep and cow’s milk, isn’t overpowering to the well-seasoned flesh of the burger. Both applications merely add a hint of luxury to the overall package that is further enhanced by the slick, sweet mass of onions. The pliant brioche bun is similarly well-conceived. It's the ideal match for the burger – it’s not too bready, yet is still able to stand up to its hearty contents. I could easily set the burger down between bites without worrying that the whole thing would deconstruct in front of me.
When the last bite had been secured, I didn’t feel as guilty as I’d imagined I would. I felt happy, satisfied and ready to hit the road for my next little indulgence – a single scoop of coconut pandan ice cream at Scoops Westside.
The stars had finally aligned in my favor.
9411 Culver Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232