review: fraîche, amsterdam.

You know we don't really do restaurant reviews here in the traditional sense, but if we think there's somewhere worth going, we try to mention it in a findable way. Based on last night's experience, Fraîche is somewhere worth going.

We had a really really nice evening, so I don't want to linger too much on the less-compelling aspects of the operation, but yeah ok: bad news first. Gripe #1 and I guess really my only serious complaint is that their beer selection was severely, depressingly anemic (Brand, Amstel, and Heineken, WTF? none of those are even beer).

And because there was no beer worth drinking, I was forced to interact with the wine list, something you know I would normally never complain about (I would just shut up and drink good beer instead), but: the red wine options were weirdly unidimensionally Italianate/Sangiovese, and our time in Italy cured me of ever purposely, excitedly ordering Sangiovese, so I didn't find much joy there either.


OK, now the good news: booze gripes aside, everything else was thoroughly cozy, efficient, and fun. For an Amsterdam restaurant, if you give me a completely charming and friendly waitstaff (check), plus good-to-great music on the stereo (check), you're halfway there. You almost don't even need to be able to cook: the food just needs to show up in a reasonable timeframe and be edible. If your music playlist includes 20 minutes' worth of Bitches Brew, you get double quadruple one zillion extra points.

The food itself: really carefully done and tasty. Not exactly mind-expanding or anything, but definitely complex, professionally cooked, well-seasoned, and most of all: careful. As in made with care, which is something we don't see a lot of around here.

Our starters were: thin slices of wild boar with cranberry jam and finely diced red cabbage; and I had confit scallop with Israeli couscous and citrus vinaigrette. The scallop was barely cooked (or had the texture of being barely cooked, not sure how a shellfish confit comes into being), the couscous was perfectly done, the citrus-y peppers and shoots on top added a nice mix of textures, and the whole thing was delicate in a way my cooking never is...I liked it very much.

Next up I had "ricotta gnocchi with pickled pumpkin, winter mushrooms, foie gras, smoked pine nuts, cheddar sauce"; ze Mara had "herb-crusted cod with Jerusalem artichoke, parsley root, baby radish, pink grapefruit, tarragon, brown butter." Both were, again, totally enjoyable if not breathtaking...I wish that the non-gnocchi components of my dish had been more assertive (pickled pumpkin + smoked pine nuts, I'm looking at you), and Mara's dish really required every component in every bite in order to really come alive...and almost everything we were served (except my scallop) seemed to benefit from a tiny tiny pinch of the coarse salt that was provided in a little dish before the meal even began, I guess maybe they're undersalting on purpose. In any event: we pretty much licked our plates clean.

Three courses were €35 per person (dessert was a nice white chocolate/mandarin mousse and a petite cheese plate), which is a very very typical price point for three courses in Amsterdam, and this is the important part: I know we've never ever had a meal anywhere else in town with such sophisticated and pretty faultless (and, again, careful) cooking at these prices. I know we'll be back very soon. A brief chat with one of the friendly American chefs revealed a couple of things: 1) that they have all kinds of very exciting plans for new venues over the next few years, and 2) you shouldn't doubt the Duck when it comes to geek knowledge like who's playing soprano on Bitches Brew (it is Wayne).


Oh yeah: Xmas dinner. We're hibernating, as you know. Dinner and a movie for two is the plan. The dinner is: steak with some kind of port/Stilton sauce I haven't decided on; some kind of roasted beet and maybe cranberry relish I haven't decided on yet; garlic mashed taters; roasted parsnips with butter and horseradish maybe; some kind of salad with walnut oil I haven't decided on yet; etc. And something for dessert. That I haven't decided on yet.

Movie: The Godfather.



Anonymous said...

hand salute to you mr. duck.

MEM said...

thank you i think, if it's the good kind of hand salute.

klary said...

interesting. I liked it but did not love it, but wanted to love it, and saw a lot of potential for my love to go. maybe i should revisit soon...

MEM said...

i can't say we loooooved it, but we had fun and since the menu changes every week i can see us swooping down again as soon as the menu looks right....i have to say that we were a little bit disappointed in this menu b/c when we made the rez it was a different menu.....but whatever, yes, we'll try again soon.