Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Test Kitchen | Fraser - 08/31/2010

9575 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 277-0133

The fifth chef to take the reins at Test Kitchen was Neil Fraser of Grace who is in the midst of moving from his old home to a defunct cathedral (thanks for the correction Komal); fitting for a restaurant named Grace. Having missed out on the final evening at the previous Grace, I was happy to finally have an opportunity to sample his cooking (the wine dinner at Grace doesn't count). In attendance with me were Kevin of KevinEats (as always) and Jo of My Last Bite

Roof Garden - vodka, fresh sweet and sour, soda water, thyme, mint and sugar
The five cocktails presented this evening are all classics from Grace's menu. We had the Rock Garden to start, tart and herbaceous, very refreshing and approachable.

1785 - Bourbon, lillet blanc, orange slice
By contrast the 1785 felt like a stiff old time cocktail out of the 50s. The cedary bite of the bourbon is softened by the fragrant bitterness of the lillet and aromas of citrus from the orange.

Grilled Octopus - Pickled Watermelon
The first thing I immediately detected from this course was the woody bitterness which was tempered quite nicely by the lightly pickled watermelon. The texture of the octopus was a bit to dense and chewy, perhaps I've been spoiled by Voltaggio's melt-in-your-mouth style of octopus.

Pied de Cochon - Spicy Aioli
For our next course we were presented with a slow cooked trotter covered in panko and fried into a sphere of deliciousness. The rich porcine flavor of the trotter was immensely satisfying as was the textural interplay between the crunchy shell and soft rich interior.

Grilled Prosciutto Wrapped Figs
Another classic fruit and ham pairing, the sweet salty interplay is similar to that of the prosciutto and melon we had during our previous visit punctuated nicely with a light char.

Chilled Peach soup - Sherry Gelée
The next course was an ideal summer soup made of reduced peach the body is noticably viscous and exudes the sugary sweet essence of fresh peach. A small cube of tart sherry gelée was included which cut the saccharine character of the soup appreciably.

Chilean Seafood Ceviche
The final appetizer was a classic ceviche of rock shrimp, scallop, and mussel. The marinade had a particularly clean citrus aspect to it as well as a pleasing heat on the finish.

Wild Seabass - Slow Cooked, Spicy Lobster Ceviche
With back to back courses involving ceviche we joked that Fraiser must have co-opted some of the marinade from Zarate's Cebiche dinner the night before. Simply calling this ceviche though doesn't do the seabass justice. The fish had a dense appearance but proved to be tender and flaky. The mild flavor of the bass lent itself well to the bright acidity of the marinade as well as the sweetness of the lobster.

Culto - silver tequila, fresh sweet and sour, sour cherry Italian syrup
Our waiter described this next cocktail as a twist on a cosmo, with none of the classic ingredients. I found it to be well-balanced, the bite of the tequila is evident though tempered by the tartness of its accompaniments.

Aromatherapy - gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, tonic water
Very clean with an herbal sweetness the Aromatherapy proved to be another enjoyable drink, though a bit too similar to the Rock Garden.

Day Boat Scallop - Sautéed, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Peas, Fava Beans
Perhaps one of the single best scallops I've eaten to date, the texture was a blend of beautiful char on the outside and decadently supple meatiness below. The flavor was exceptional as well, with a briny sweetness far more forceful than the norm. Chef Fraser picked his accompaniments well with the chanterelles adding a weighty earthy sapor while the blend of pea, fava beans, and spinach provided a light vegetal counterpoint.

Pork - Braised, Slow Cooked Egg, Frisée, Corn Velouté
From the description, this looked like Chef Fraser's take on a classic Lyonnaise salad. Between the bitter frisée savory lardons and the egg this was already a course I'd be happy to eat. The corn velouté was a lovely compliment adding a soft sweetness to the entire dish. My only complaint is that the headlining pork belly needed to stand out more prominently.

Rib Eye of Beef - Grilled, Black Garlic Flan, Horseradish Gremolata, Braised Greens
As with any well-cooked high quality cut of beef, the meat stood on its own. However this proved to be one of the few times that I actually preferred the beef paired with the accompaniments, in particular the horseradish gremolata whose acidity added a countervailing lightness to the heft of the beef.

Sonnet - gin, dolin blanc vermouth, lemon wedge
Our waiter said this drink would pair well with dessert. Indeed the gin was tempered by the vermouth giving the overall drink a profile similar to a sweet sake.

Panna Cotta - Vanilla, Market Berries, Salted Caramel
The texture here was more akin to a flan (custard) than a panna cotta (gelatin), but all nitpicking aside this was a simple yet delicious dessert. The dense body of vanilla is superbly accented by the tartness of the berries and the salty caramel adds a countervailing savoriness to the mix.

The food was noticeably more grounded than the previous Test Kitchen dinners. Fraser played to his strengths, eschewing fancy techniques in favor of execution, resulting in a menu that is both refined and enjoyable. Based on my experience, I think a trip to Fraser's new restaurant is definitely in order.

Prior to the meal we snuck a peak in the upstairs area of the restaurant and found Josh Goldman hard at work prepping for a Williams-Sonoma event and where Josh is Michael Voltaggio is likely not far behind. After our meal, we took a more detailed look at what Chef Voltaggio had in store for his demonstration. For me the highlight was the immersion circulator filled with bags of Waygu beef and cooked for 48 hours. I only wish I had time to go to the demonstration and try the finished product myself.

Of course the crew willingly posed for some photos afterward (from left to right): Michael Voltaggio, Cole Dickenson, Klein Debow, and Josh Goldman.


Lynn said...

your pictures are amazing! and your writing is so descriptive, bravo!

Epicuryan said...

Hi Lynn,

Glad you liked the review. You going to make a stop at Test Kitchen before it closes?

MyLastBite said...

Lovely photos! So fun dining with you. x