Once upon a time, in a tiny strip mall on Hillside Road in Fairfield, there lived a most unusual and slightly confused restaurant named Fraiche. Fraiche wasn’t sure if it was a bistro or a burger bar; it didn’t know if its decor was very modern (a la Jonathan Adler - complete with fake deer heads) or remarkably old fashioned (not unlike my grandmother’s apartment, complete with chipped antique china plates on the walls); it hadn’t made up its mind whether to lure you into its intimate back room or interrogate you with its incredibly bright lighting (remedied immediately upon request). But one thing was for sure - there was no confusion about the quality of food. The food at Fraiche - it's ecclectic, it’s inventive, and of course - it's fresh!
I was there with a large group, two weekends in a row, so we got to try a lot of food. Most notable was the tremendous variety of seasonal produce that spanned the menu, and the creative preparation of many of the dishes. Also interesting on the Fraiche menu was the juxtaposition of comfort food and modern American fare...sort of like two menus colliding. Burgers? Arctic Char? Mac 'n Cheese? Deviled Eggs? Here, there are choices for the Princess and the Pauper in us all!
For starters, my British cuz ordered the Matzoh Ball Soup which was better than Nana’s -delicious broth, a touch peppery, with cubed carrots, onions, and celery floating effortlessly on top. The kanedalch were light, but not quite “floating on air” the way zayda liked ‘em! Another friend (who is famous for starting a web site known as ctbites!) started with the Gazpacho. It was poured table-side (like the Matzoh Ball Soup seen above) with delectable shrimp ceviche in the middle. The soup was smooth vs. chunky, light, and very tasty. I started with the Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Hash which is listed aptly as an ‘extra’ - it is! Extra delicious, just salty enough, warm, with chunky bits of tender bacon, a MUST HAVE! It was such a hit that we asked for three orders for the table.
Several people ordered the famous Fraiche Burger which got, for the most part, an 8 out of 10. The prime beef burgers were cooked exactly to specification and were delicately laced with Vermont cheddar. The pickles were the real Macoy, sour deli style - not the flaccid, soggy ones that seem to end up beside most burgers in town. The only disappointing aspects of this famous burger were the caramelized onions (tasty, but unfortunately cold on all three burgers), and the buns - which fell apart almost immediately (a problem which also seemed to be remedied by my second visit). One friend complained that the burger was too salty, but no one else seemed to have that issue. Also popular was Fraiche’s Ahi Burger. It was pan-seared Ahi tuna with a satisfying, steak-like consistency. Juicy and succulent, it allowed the bun to soak up just a bit of the ginger soy glaze and the wasabi aioli for that extra-saturated flavor sensation! Someone ordered the New York Strip Steak which was tender and savory and the accompanying mashed potatoes were creamy, dreamy, and nice and steamy!
My favorite dish was the Slow Roasted Veggies. It came as a mini mountain of finely chopped cauliflower, carrots, and beets, mixed with goat cheese and filberts, and gently tossed in a delicate vinaigrette. It was warm, scrumptious, and the portion size was perfect. Enough to fill you up but not too much, which could have potentially become cloying.
But by far, the Grand-Pubah of ‘picks’ at Fraiche was the outrageously delicious Mac N’ Cheese. This was as far from Kraft Dinner as one can get while still retaining that “comfort food” factor. It was rich and satisfying and ultimately decadent, bathed gently in truffle oil for that extra creamy, ultimately wicked flavor extravaganza!
The desserts at Fraiche were fairy-tale perfect. We ordered the Butterscotch Panna Cotta, which was melt-in-your-mouth creamy and sweet enough to make your salivary glands stand at attention. Also, we tried the Croissant Chocolate Bread Pudding-plump with Belgian chocolate chunks - truly magical! Such an interesting twist on the traditional bread pudding, the croissant made it light as a feather and flaky to boot. The chocolate was dreamy and the combination made chef Marc Lippman my knight in shining armor (of the month!) Someone ordered the Coconut Sorbet which had a fabulous texture and tiny pieces of coconut floating within. Yummy.
We capped off the meal with some delicious coffee, served with milk from a beaker, a nod to the modern side. The glassware was classy and the wait-staff kind and attentive, if still a bit wet behind the ears. It was a nearly perfect evening and the glass slipper certainly fit. Well done Fraiche! - All who enter will eat happily ever after!
Fraiche 75 Hillside Road, Fairfield. 203.256.5744