The Other Critics

Virbila Takes Fraiche Down a Peg; J. Gold Drinks In L.A.’s Best Cocktails

S. Irene Virbila takes a look at “baby-faced French chef” Ben Bailly’s new gig at Fraiche in Culver City and recommends he spend less time on Twitter and more time tightening up his menu and kitchen. Oooh, snap! In that twilight period after Jason Travi but before Bailly’s entrance, Virbila says her last meal here was “flat-out terrible,” but now “the food is getting better.” She enjoys the smoked trout rilletes toast points and spreads like the eggplant caviar and piquillo pepper, and goes crazy for prime steak tartare. The food’s good, but “not particularly compelling,” she writes, while curiously opining that Alain Giraud was not feeling his own cooking at Anisette. Bailly’s problem? “He seems a little lost in this new world of Mediterranean comfort food, pastas and hearty main courses,” which results in “over-cooked” pasta and sloppy sauces and boring renditions of beef cheeks, which she calls “this year’s short ribs.” “Right now the menu reads like a collection of L.A.’s most popular dishes, which could mean that Bailly isn’t really getting to write his own ticket yet,” Virbila states, shortly before giving the restaurant one-and-a-half stars. Ooof! [LAT]

Jonathan Gold releases a whopping edition of drink suggestions, starting with the Gibsons and Ramos gin fizzes that may or may not have kept Faulker loose at Musso and Frank’s and going all the way through 52 more until we get to a Reagan martini at the Mission Inn, a drink “as strong, undiluted and unpalatable as the man himself.” Gold asserts that all of the chosen essential drinks say “something about L.A.” [LAW]

Brad A. Johnson also takes a look into Fraiche, despite once vowing not to return after the restaurant lost Jason Travi, Miho Travi, and Thierry Perez and “slumped along on autopilot with, at best, mediocre food.” He also loves the beef tarate, but unlike Virbila, feels the pastas “might be better now than they’ve ever been.” Then he gets to the “burned to a crisp” beef cheeks and duck confit, which aren’t too pleasing and desserts are a “big disappointment.” Despite these stumbles, Johnson declares, “Bailly has certainly turned things around.” Two stars are awarded. [Brad A. Johnson]

At Bar Toscana, “the market-driven small plates play second fiddle to the drinks, but they don’t have to,” writes Los Angeles magazine, dubbing the drinks “easily the best this side of the 405.” [LAM]

Virbila Takes Fraiche Down a Peg; J. Gold Drinks In L.A.’s Best Cocktails