Fray

Update! Sorry, this restaurant is now closed.

Restaurant: Fray
Cuisine: American/Local/Pacific Northwest/West Coast
Last visited: December 22, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Kensington)
Address: 3980 Fraser Street
Bus: SB Fraser St FS E 23 Av
Price Range: $10-20 ($15 mains)

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!

Food: 3.5
Service: 3
Ambiance: 3.5
Overall: 4
Additional comments:

  • Local ingredients
  • Comfort food w/twist
  • Fun/retro diner ambiance
  • Good for groups
  • Gluten free options
  • Vegetarian options
  • Reasonably priced
  • Beer available
  • Board games available
  • Accepts credit cards
  • Sat-Sun – 9AM brunch
  • Mon-Sun. Dinner 5pm-10pm

**Recommendations: Rosemary Potato Chips WITH Parmesan dip or truffle aioli, Portobello French Fries, Fray Burger WITH added Egg, Fray Poulet Chicken Dinner

Vietnamese restaurant, Vietnamese restaurant, dive, Vietnamese dive, nail polish salon, karaoke shop, “for rent” space, Fray, Vietnamese restaurant, no wait! Stop! Back up! Back up! Back up! What’s that? What’s Fray? Well that’s what I wanted to know too! It’s definitely an unexpected location for a Pacific Northwest restaurant. Fray is one of Vancouver’s newest restaurants offering creative comfort food made with local BC ingredients. It’s new and refreshing to the neighbourhood and faces little competition in an area saturated with mainly “the typical” Vietnamese restaurants.

I actually received an e-mail from the owners notifying me of its opening, but due to scheduling I ended up randomly visiting unannounced on my own time and dime. The space is large and spacious and they even offer boardgames to their guests. It’s very casual, playful, laid back and more or less something you would expect to see on Main Street or Commercial Drive. I question if it would do as well if it was actually on those streets facing similar competition though. It kind of reminded me of a slightly fancier The Red Wagon and less fancy Commune Cafe. It has a diner like appearance, vintage feel and modern retro decor, which is quite exciting and charming to the area.

The food is modern comfort food with an approachable twist, which is quite popular in Vancouver, but this time it’s not overpriced, which is a rare find in Vancouver. It’s a place where you can eat and get full and I could sense the passion and the effort. As for the whole “local/organic” bit, I wasn’t as convinced since there were lots of non-seasonal ingredients. I wouldn’t have guessed that was the theme, but it was definitely marketed that way.

I get what they’re trying to do, but I’m more infatuated with its unique location than the actual food, but the food was good for the price. I’m not raving about it, but I’m satisfied with it and it’s a fun place. I’d be more surprised and impressed if I found the restaurant randomly with no expectations though. I like the intention of the restaurant, and it manages to be inventive and affordable without sacrificing quality or portions.

On the table:

Fray’s Famous F-Bombs2/6 (Okay)

  • Our signature dish; fresh figs wrapped in Fraser Valley bacon with a balsamic reduction $7.95
  • They’re usually a 6/6 thing for me. If you’ve never had them and you like sweet and savoury you’ll likely enjoy them.
  • Bacon wrapped dates are one of my favourite things and I’ve had a lot of versions of these in the States, so I only found these ones okay.
  • The figs weren’t big and plump and they were quite soft and mushy and the bacon wasn’t crispy enough to contrast the fig.
  • The figs tasted like sticky dried figs although they were moist. I’m not sure where they would get fresh figs at this time of year anyways… ?
  • It was what it was and there was a nice salty and sweet balance with an acidic sweet tang of balsamic reduction and I appreciated the thick strip of bacon.
  • Personally when I make them at home I like to stuff them with almonds and brie or blue cheese for extra texture and flavour.
  • Just for comparisons sake, here are some excellent ones outside of Vancouver that I’ve had – Dátiles con Beicon from Boqueria, Griddled Bacon Wrapped Dates from Tasty n Sons, and the one who apparently started the trend was Firefly Tapas in Las Vegas. I’m glad the idea is finally in Vancouver, but they can get better.

**Rosemary Potato Chips4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • A stacked bowl of house made rosemary infused potato chips $4.95
  • I started eating them with Parmesan dip (from the Sex Pistols) and the truffle aioli (from the Porotobello French Fries) and it was even better.
  • I highly recommend ordering the dips separately with these chips! You have to make the request.
  • This was one of my favourite things and I would never think to order them.
  • It was a huge bowl of warm, salted, crispy, thin cut potato chips that were perfectly seasoned and baked.
  • It was more like a gourmet and fresh Lays chip than a Pringles or Mrs. Vickie’s.
  • I could taste the aromatic rosemary and they were naturally a bit oily, but I enjoyed them thoroughly.

**Portobello French Fries4/6 (Very good)

  • The death of the French Fry! A jenga tower of breaded portobello strips lightly fried and served with truffle aioli $8.95
  • Everyone loves these and I did as well, but I also love portobello mushrooms. This was a pretty heavy appetizer.
  • They were very crunchy with a thick panko batter, but the mushrooms were also thick cut and meaty enough to make it taste like it wasn’t just batter.
  • The batter didn’t slip off the mushroom and it was never floury, soggy or mushy.
  • The mushrooms were juicy and they were well executed, but I couldn’t taste much truffle in what I thought was just garlic aioli.

Sex Pistols3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • A stack of sauce-loaded chicken drumettes. Choose from hot sauce with parmesan dip or honey curry with tandoori $9.95
  • These were hot sauce with parmesan dip, but they weren’t very hot at all.
  • The wings were good and not dry with a small kick, but for being called “sex pistols” I thought they’d be much spicier.
  • The parmesan dip tasted like sour cream with some actual parmesan cheese in it so it wasn’t smooth and pureed.
  • The parmesan dip was cooling with the mildly spicy chicken, but I enjoyed it most with the Rosemary Potato Chips.

Seasonal Soupn/a

  • A cup of fresh soup served with grilled focaccia. Ask your server for today’s special. $4.50
  • It was chicken noodle soup and I didn’t order this, but there was no rave or complaint.

**Fray Burger WITH added Egg5/6 (Excellent)

  • A patty of house ground Pemberton BC beef with cranberry tomato ketchup and mayonnaise served with house salad. $10.95
  • YES! That is an an added FRIED EGG to the burger which was done upon request.
  • This had an added tomato ($2) and a fried egg ($1).
  • The photo is perfect for my Beauty of an Egg Yolk Series.
  • The egg was only a featured option for The Fray BLT, but it was what made this burger amazing.
  • I just wanted to top it off with wedges of avocado… and pulled pork and bacon.

  • The egg really made this burger, and I’m not sure how I would have felt without it.
  • The burgers are popular here, but I wish they were available medium rare since they are house ground.
  • I found the bun much too thick although soft and chewy.
  • It was the Filipino purple yam buns, but it didn’t taste or really look like the ones I’ve seen before.
  • The patty was quite thick, not dry, and very well seasoned.
  • The patty could be juicier, but the slab of mayo and egg yolk helped sauce it up.
  • I couldn’t taste the cranberry tomato ketchup and if I removed some of the bun, I enjoyed it!

Porchetta Sandwichn/a

  • Roast pork with caramelized onion and horseradish mayo on rustica bread $8.95
  • If you’ve had the Porchetta Sandwich from Meat & Bread, then you’re going to want to compare them.
  • I’m judging purely on looks since this wasn’t my order, but I was hoping for some cracklings.
  • My friend said the pork was generous, but it didn’t seem freshly made although still good.

TaunTaun Burger- 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Inspired by the Empire Strikes Back: beef patty with pulled pork, bacon, cheese, ketchup & BBQ sauce, on a purple yam bun. Slit it open and climb on in! $15.95
  • Yes! Layer anything with pulled pork and I’m there.
  • The pork isn’t the same one they use for their pulled pork sliders (which they ran out of on this night), but this was good and juicy.
  • The bacon was crispy and the patty had a good thickness and it was moist and very well seasoned again.
  • It was white cheddar cheese and again there was too much bun for the burger, but it was a good burger.
  • Again, the bun is soft, but a bit chewy and it still didn’t taste or look like the Filipino purple yam buns I’m used to seeing.
  • I would have preferred a fluffy white bun or brioche bun.

**Wild Mushroom Ravioli4/6 (Very good)

  • Filled with mushroom and marscarpone with brown sugar sage and roasted cashews $13.95
  • These ravioli are the chef’s recipe, but they’re made somewhere else.
  • It was a fair portion with lots of cashews which I appreciated. If it wasn’t pine nuts, then buttery cashews are a good alternative with ravioli.

  •  The ravioli was cooked al dente and the inside was filled with minced mushrooms and some herbed bread crumbs. It still had a dominant mushroom flavour though, so it wasn’t all filler.
  • It was nice and buttery and well sauced, but I wanted more sage presence and the butter wasn’t quite browned yet.
  • The marscapone was very mild and barely noticeable, but it was still a very good pasta dish with a nice nutty crunch of cashews.
  • As a restaurant with a focus on local ingredients, I would have loved to see fire roasted cherry tomatoes, actual pieces of Portobello mushrooms and some whole leaves of sage though.

Mac and Cheese (with sausage and bacon) – 2/6 (Okay)

  • Artisan radiatore pasta with sharp cheddar, bechamel sauce and spices. A real winter warmer $12.95
  • Add tomato, mushrooms $1 each Blue cheese, sausage and bacon $2 each
  • This one had added sausage and bacon ($16.95), but there wasn’t enough to justify the cost and the portion isn’t very big overall.
  • If there was no sausage and bacon it would have been quite bland.

  • The cheese sauce was more like a thin white sauce and it tasted more like a butter sauce with a hint of cream than a creamy cheese sauce.
  • I couldn’t taste cheese or spices and the sauce just didn’t stick to the noodles.
  • The noodles were quite overcooked and very soft and the sausage was homemade but not particularly noticeable or memorable.
  • The bacon and sausage didn’t seem infused in the sauce and it just seemed like buttery noodles.
  • It was sprinkled with a crispy panko crust and that was my favourite part.

Mac and Cheese (with Blue Cheese) – 2.5/6 (Okay-Good)

  • Artisan radiatore pasta with sharp cheddar, bechamel sauce and spices. A real winter warmer $12.95
  • Add tomato, mushrooms $1 each Blue cheese, sausage and bacon $2 each
  • If you order the mac and cheese you almost have to add blue cheese ($14.95), even if you’re not a fan of it, because otherwise it just tastes like melted butter with a bit of cream.
  • I couldn’t taste any cheese without the crumbled blue cheese.
  • There wasn’t too much blue cheese, but it was the only thing giving the dish flavour.
  • I loved the cripsy panko gratin crust, but the noodles were overcooked again and the sauce on the runny side.

Pacific Salmon de Orzo1.5/6 (Poor-Okay)

  • Fresh west coast salmon pan-seared and resting on a bed of orzo pasta $14.95
  • This was quite disappointing.
  • For this type of restaurant I didn’t expect the salmon to come with the skin, but I always prefer the skin. I’ll overlook that though.
  • However, the salmon was dry and slightly overcooked and so was the orzo (rice shaped pasta).
  • Both were quite bland and the orzo really just tasted like pasta with spinach and a bit of red pepper. I actually make the same one at home, but I add feta, lemon and dried cranberries.
  • For a local and organic type of restaurant I expected more presence of greens.
  • I think they’re capable of something more like the Seared Salmon Risotto from Commune Cafe.

**Fray Poulet Chicken Dinner4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • 5 spice half roasted BC chicken served with seasonal vegetables, artisan herb gnocchi and chicken pan gravy $16.95
  • This was maybe my favourite dish. It was unexpected!
  • It was a huge roasted chicken and it was super juicy, tender and moist and dripping sauces everywhere.
  • The dry rub was fantastic and it was just Chinese 5 spice powder, but it tasted fresh and it was very strong and aromatic.
  • I could taste cumin, cinnamon and cloves with some black pepper and maybe cardamom. It tasted like freshly ground house made 5 spice.
  • I was hoping the seasonal veggies would be seasonal though, and turnips or root vegetables would be nice to see over green beans.
  • The gnocchi was also fantastic and they were generously sauced with a creamy buttery chicken gravy.
  • The gnocchi was semi-crispy and very soft, pillowy and moist with a nice tender chew and good potato flavour. It was a very well done and certainly one of the better gnocchi I’ve had in Vancouver and in general.
  • I would love to see fresh herbs incorporated into the gnocchi or pan fried with the gnocchi too.

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Fray on Urbanspoon

16 Comments

  • 4SlicesofCheese says:

    2 Dollars to add tomatoes!?! I hope they were heirloom at least.

    I am still on the look out for a good mac and cheese, any thoughts? I have been disappointed too many times.

    Welcome addition to the neighborhood though.
    Will try soon!

  • Linda says:

    mmm after reading this post, the first thing that popped into my head was “why is it called poulet chicken dinner? is it then chicken chicken dinner?” lol btw, nice addition of the rating system next to the numerical values, i noticed that right away :)

    the awning of this place totally reminded me of commune cafe too! and the fray burger totally looks like the one at GLOWBAL lol must be that delish egg! i’m kind of sad that they don’t serve lunch here – it’d definitely be an option for me if they did :)

    the chicken dish definitely looks yummy and i love the fact that they served it with gnocci and not your typical mashed potatoes! but the salmon with skin? total faux pas for me lol

  • Fried egg on top of anything tastes great.

  • Mijune says:

    @4SlicesofCheese – Love mac and cheese! Surprisingly BG Urban Garden does a good mac and cheese lol. I wrote about it so you can search the post too! Oh and the deep fried mac and cheese and Black and Blue is good. AND I also liked the one at Chop Steakhouse, but I haven’t been in a while. Beecher’s Street Cafe in Seattle is amazing too! Oh and the one at Burgoo people like, but I found good, but not amazing. And the one at Au Petit Chavignol I have to try!

    @Linda – I knew you would notice!!! lol! I was paranoid about what seemed like 50% of the people thinking 3/6 is bad. 3/6 is good! 2/6 sounds bad, but 2/6 is okay (eating it cause it’s there, but not really good)… so I just added it. Is it distracting? or okay?

    I’m surprised they don’t serve lunch too! I didn’t noticed until you said!

    The salmon with no skin I expect at these restaurants though because the people coming most likely won’t like it. Fine dining I expect skin :)

    @pennyandrusty – you bet! Except maybe not on dessert… or cereal.

  • fmed says:

    The head chef is Filipino which explains the purple yam buns.

    I haven’t been to Fray, but to be honest, I don’t really think it is my kind of place so I may never end up trying it. That said, I wish more places would offer a fried egg on top of a burger here in this city.

    Au Petit Chavignol’s Mac & Cheese is very good – and it better be, considering the source of their cheese. (Though I was a bit disappointed with their cheeseburger).

  • LotusRapper says:

    THANKS for reviewing Fray, Mijune. I’ve driven past them so many times now but have never stopped to even look inside. I think Fray and that new bakery on Fraser/King Ed are all part of the changes of demographics along the Fraser corridor, and welcomed changes in terms of eating establishments too (but nobody touch Pho Long (ex-Pho Van) !!!). Now I know what to expect if I drop into Fray, which I might just do.

    :-)

  • Linda says:

    nope not distracting at all! i actually found myself looking up at the rating system at the beginning so I could get used to it – it definitely helps if you’re a first time reader :)

  • Chris@fray says:

    Thanks for coming out and trying what we’ve created!
    A few questions to answer: We are planning on opening for weekday lunch, and soon, but because we’re out of the way and still trying to drag people off Main Street, we’ve been focusing ourselves on core dining times while the word gets out. We recently started weekend brunch, which is now rolling nicely, so expanding hours through the week is stage 3 and will probably happen late January.
    Our pork is fresh made – it’s slaughtered on a Monday on a farm in Abbotsford and its on our plates Wednesday. If you visited on a Tuesday you’re admittedly not getting it at its freshest, but the trade off we have to make with sourcing locally is our food doesn’t roll off the back of a GFS freezer truck every morning, it comes from small farms when (and if) they can get out to us.
    Ditto the figs – the f-bombs are very popular, so the idea of losing them in the off-season is tough and we had to go further afield than bc to keep them on the menu during the winter.
    We’re about to announce our fEastVan menu, so there’ll be a lot more to try in the months ahead, and with Wednesday trivia starting soon, 40c sex-bombs on Mondays, and bc draft microbrews and glasses of wine for under $5 a glass, we hope there will be plenty of chances for you to try us again soon!
    :)

  • Cathy Browne says:

    Compared to the delectable (and cheaper) mac and cheese at Pourhouse, I found the mac and cheese here to be very disappointing. And I will not order the burger until they give customers the option of another bun. I find the purple yam buns very off-putting. And the small and over-priced wine servings have not impressed me.

    I do try to support local places in my Fraser neighbourhood, but so far, I’m not a fan, and I’d love to be. Listen to your customers, Fray. Please.

  • I did like Fray on Fraser. Full disclosure: I live in this neighbourhood and thus, it’s important to me that people recognize that there are many new restaurants in the area and that this area is thriving (did you know there’s a brand new corner store at Broadway and Fraser and it’s really big, well-lit and with an awesome selection?) – Mount Pleasant and Riley Park have received bad reputation in the past, and they shouldn’t as this area is growing and it’s getting nicer. There’s also Che Baba Cantina on 15th and Fraser. So Fray, Che Baba and all these new shops (including the Out Post Cafe) are very good welcome additions to the neighbourhood.

  • Mijune says:

    @fmed – I found it very comparable to The Red Wagon and thanks for the info on the chef and mac and cheese!

    @LR – awesome!! So glad to settle the curiosity… it’s a good place if you want to bring your kids too!

    @Linda – yes!! Thank you!!

    @Chris@Fray – thank you so much for commenting! It’s always nice to have the owners help clarify things and answer questions. I really appreciate it. I try my best to revisit restaurants although it can take me a while. I can’t wait to check out the brunch menu though… Vancouver’s brunch scene could use more choices! Thanks!

    @Cathy Browne – I can understand your frustrations, but as Chris said they’re still in stage 1. I’m sure there will be changes with more customer feedback and perhaps other menu items will impress you? Thanks for commenting Cathy!

    @Raul – Thanks for your comment Raul! Yes, I apologize if you were offended by the “Vietnamese dive” intro, but I was just speaking factually of that area. I agree though, the area is really developing and I can’t wait to see what else comes out! I do like the Fray in the neighbourhood, but just think there could be further improvements.

  • Chris@fray says:

    Just so people are aware, we’ve undergone a menu change, and a change of head chef. Purple yam buns are out, as we struggle to keep them as consistent as we’d liked and some (like Cathy) weren’t fans. Also, more vegetarian options, including a superfood salad that is turning heads, and a new vegetarian burger with a housemade felafel patty and mucho gloriousity of the vege variety.
    Many of your suggestions taken on board. Come see! :)

  • Mijune says:

    @Chris – Excellent! wow! I totally appreciate the update! I don’t mean excellent chef is gone, but it’s interesting to see the new direction. I’m sure I’m speaking for most of us when I say we’re really appreciative of you guys taking our feedback and improving. Definitely more Main Street and almost “hippy” like with the superfood and vegetarian options too. Catering to your market is a great thing though and I will be back to check it out! Thanks for updating the readers Chris!

  • matt says:

    I’ve been to Fray a couple of times and i’ll keep going back. The food is decent, but it’s the laid back vibe and good selection of well priced drinks that makes it an obvious choice for someone living in the neighbourhood like me

  • Mijune says:

    @Matt – I agree! Great insight from a local and thanks for sharing!

  • will oakish says:

    hey Fray is closed and fray.me is a broken link so I would recommend checking out this other restaurant http://www.theparkatenglishbay.com/

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