Fraîche Restaurant (Fine Dining in West Vancouver)

Update! New chef as of November 20, 12.

Restaurant: Fraîche Restaurant
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest/European/Eclectic/Fine Dining
Last visited: April 5, 2012
Location: West Vancouver, BC (West Vancouver)
Address: 2240 Chippendale Rd
Transit: Flagstop NB on Folkestone Way
Price Range: $50+

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

Food: 5.5 (based on Adventurous Menu Degustation)
Service: 5
Ambiance: 5
Overall: 5
Additional comments:

  • Fine dining
  • Pacific Northwest/European
  • Creative & eclectic
  • Executive Chef Jefferson Alverez
  • Incredible view
  • Award winning
  • Seasonal ingredients
  • Traditional/Adventurous menu
  • Wine bar/wine pairings
  • Formal service
  • Patio seating
  • Brunch Sunday 10:00am to 3:00pm
  • Lunch Tuesday to Saturday 11:00am to 3:00pm
  • Dinner Tuesday to Sunday 5:00pm – 10:00pm
  • Closed Monday

**Recommendations: Adventurous Menu Degustation (Tasting), Smoked BC Sturgeon with Laughing Stock Syrah wine pairing, Duck Hearts, Coffee Crusted Muskox.

Located at the top of the British Properties in West Vancouver, it was an all around high that was hard to come down from. Since I was also taking photos I sat with my back facing the window and view, but what I had in front of me was just as incredible. Behind me was the skyline of my beautiful city and on my plate was the rest of the world.

It is obvious when a chef is passionate about his work and it’s something that you can’t fake. The selection of ingredients, choice of technique, and overall presentation show the creative mind, effort and heart of a chef. Having worked in world renowned kitchens such as the notable 2 Michelin Star Mugaritz in Spain and Morimito‘s in Philadelphia, the food is the story of Executive Chef Jefferson Alvarez’s many travels and inspirations.

It was a fine representation of West Coast dining with European influences and it was recently named Best North Shore by Vancouver Magazine Awards. Although the a la carte menu sounded fantastic, I came here anticipating the Adventurous Menu Degustation (tasting menu). There is also the Conservative Menu Degustation, but when you come to experience the artistry of a chef who experiments and creates, I would highly recommend not taking the road most travelled. I use the word “create” rather than “cook” because it’s more than cooking that happens here. With carefully sourced ingredients, innovative techniques, and an overall avante garde style it was as inspirational as it was admirable.

The flow of the Adventurous Menu Degustation was a carefully thought out plot to a well written story. It had an introduction, rising actions, a climax (maybe more than one), and then falling actions which led to a denouement, or what I like to call dessert. More often than not, I am more impressed with appetizers and desserts and everything in the middle is somewhat forgettable, but not in this case. The dinner had a gradual build up, which I rarely experience, and it peaked at the right moment at about 3/4 of the way through. I was always looking forward to the next dish. The intensity of flavours, finely selected wine pairings, and pace of the meal was well controlled, developed and delivered.

If you know art and Canadian artists, then you might have just fainted at this piece…

When it comes to this type of cuisine, I’ll always be a bit biased because this is my style. I crave ingredients that I’ve never heard of and flavours that I’ve never tasted. If I can learn from what I’m eating and almost be lost for words to describe it (in the moment), it has my undivided attention and I’m hungry for more than what is on my plate.

Food that can be emotionally captivating is the hardest food to make and although this style of dining and food is not for everyone, it is very much what I look for when fine dining. Of course I love my traditional French style as well with heavier sauces and richer flavours, but what I enjoy and what I am inspired by is different. Both make me happy, but on incomparable levels.

Initially I thought it took a while to pick up and the flavours were a bit mild for my tastes, until I began to understand it. It was a refined style and exploration of unique ingredients executed with very subtle nuances and delicate flavours. The flavours were simple, but very finely tuned. The early plates gave me an idea of what to expect, but there was a grace and fragility that was consistent from start to finish.

The flavours were always light and I don’t know how else to put it, but I felt like I was eating April. The way the courses were showcased was a creative welcoming of Spring inspired by many cultures and a frequent tiptoe to Spain. The food was so dainty, elegant and beautifully presented that I honestly wanted to pick buttercups barefoot and weave them into crowns at the end… and I’m not even a barefoot kind of girl.

Just for reference sake, Chef Alvarez’s style was comparable to Chef Hamid Salimian, who happens to be one of my favourite chefs. Both of them are actually friends and it was easy to find parallels since they draw ideas from similar sources. The food they make tastes really different though and it was almost a yin (Alvarez) and yang (Salimian) of modernist cuisine. Alvarez is more “simple” and light and Salimian is more complex, technical and bold; and if you visit either of them I highly recommend ordering their tasting menus. You can’t tie the hands of artists, it limits their imagination, and the tasting menu is pretty much where they roam free.

The Adventurous Menu Degustation is $125 per person and the Conservative is $95 per person and I would suggest doing wine pairings (+$50). The restaurant manager and acting sommelier, Philippe Reigh, introduced some really stunning European wines that were more affordable than they tasted. As I observed and experienced, the food, service, room, decor, uniforms, controlled lighting, wine and wine glasses set a precedent for fine dining in Vancouver. It was well worth it and you should try the tasting menu at least once. Having this talent in Vancouver is a gift.

On the table:

Manchego Puff, Tomato Powder - 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Wine pairing: Cabriz Dao Bruto (Portugal)
  • It was a classic brut and “cheese plate” to start.
  • It was a modern execution of Manchego cheese, but the flavours were simple and the presentation beautiful.
  • I immediately referred back to the Chinese prawn cracker and the Spanish/Latin chicharrón (deep fried pork rinds), except in this case it was vegetarian.
  • The manchego was deep fried, puffed, light and crispy. It must be dipped in some previous brine to keep from melting in the process.
  • It was topped with truffle aioli, a sprinkle of dehydrated sundried tomato powder and micro herbs.
  • Manchego is a sheep’s milk cheese and the way it was executed wasn’t greasy, but the buttery oils and nutty flavour of it came at the very end.
  • The tomato powder was the seasoning salt and it added a tartness and a slight spice in the background that was perhaps from red chili pepper and/or hot paprika.
  • I could have used more truffle aioli which I thought was the “dip to the chip”, but it was more like the glue for the powder.
  • The finger food amuse was a bit unusual for fine dining, but it was new and enjoyable.
  • Being the amuse bouche it was supposed to excite my palate and show me the plans ahead, but what was ahead was bigger than this. This was really just the beginning.

Grape, House-Made Bonito, Ponzu Jelly3/6 (Good)

  • Wine pairing: Fior Prosecco
  • The salad course was next and I’ve never had anything quite like it. It was inspired by Morimoto.
  • It was made with Miners lettuce, micro fennel and green grapes with a very light dressing of mint and orange blossom.
  • It tasted of the sea and of the garden and it was a very light and refreshing salad.
  • I’ve had my fair share of bonito flakes which are dried and smoked bonito fish that are shaved into flakes.
  • Bonito flakes are the ones that keep moving when served on food. Tthey’re commonly found on takoyaki (grilled octopus balls), okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake), or agedashi tofu in Japanese cuisine.
  • In this case they weren’t the thin flimsy flakes, but they were high quality, thicker and meatier with a nice smokiness to them.
  • Bonito fish have a strong fermented fish flavour and here it was served with Miners lettuce.
  • Miners lettuce is a crispy wild green which I found very grassy in flavour with a bitterness at the end. It was similar to spinach or watercress, but grassier.
  • It was presented in long stems so it was kind of hard to eat, so when you ate one you ate the whole thing and that wild green flavour was strong.
  • There were some fresh green grapes for a tart sweetness and then some salty crispy leeks that were a bit caramelized too.
  • I couldn’t taste the mint or orange, and some orange segments might be nice as well to help it come through.
  • The Miners lettuce was definitely a bit acquired and I just wished there were more bonito flakes to contrast that intense grass flavour.
  • The Fior Prosecco had a nice body and it was very full flavoured and almost creamy. It played well with the acidity in the salad.

Soursop Marinated Ahi Tuna Ceviche, Heart of Palm, Coconut Flakes - 4/6 (Very good)

  • Wine pairing: Gaba do Xil Godello
  • This was beautiful and I think I stared at it for 15 minutes before even touching it. I want to frame it and put it on my wall.
  • It was a very tropical dish and I felt like I was in Hawaii and it was very typical of something you might see fine dining there.
  • It sounded Asian, but it didn’t taste Asian.
  • Soursopis very difficult to source in Vancouver especially at this time, so I was ecstatic to see it on the menu.
    • The name of it varies according to culture and the fruit also goes by chirimoya or prickly custard apple.
    • Even though it’s inaccurate, it may also be referred to as a custard apple, sugar apple, custard pear, or sweetsop.
    • The custard apple/pear is actually a wild sweetsop, but they’re more or less all in the same family.
    • I confuse the soursop, sweetsop and custard apple all the time. They all look slightly different, but they taste almost all the same.
    • The custard apple is one of my favourite fruits.
    • It tastes like an overripe Bartlett pear with a creamy, sugary and grainy custard like texture and flavour – see sweetsop and custard pear (scroll down in this post).
  • I was hoping to see the actual pieces of soursop on the plate, but it was only the juices used to marinate the tuna and I just wanted more of it.
  • The ahi tuna was a beautiful colour and quite lean and it was unexpected to have it served like sashimi.
  • I expected a traditional chopped ceviche with a citrus lime and lemon marinade, but instead it was the sweetness and creaminess of a soursop with the slight acidity of either lemon or its natural tartness.
  • The tuna was rubbed with fruit flavour and a bit of citrus rather than being soaked in it, so the flavours were infused and subtle. Soursop wouldn’t absorb into the tuna anyways.
  • It was a very fresh and aromatic salad with little bits of coconut flakes for texture and I would have loved some candied and crystallized ginger to accompany it.
  • The thin curl of heart of palm offered a refreshing crunch and it was a nice change from an expected daikon or compressed cucumber. It was well coated with fruity good quality olive oil too.
  • The aloe vera jellies were made with coconut milk, but they are not the typical coconut jellies found in say bubble tea.
  • I would have loved the jellies as gel capsules holding the coconut milk rather than as jellies because they were slightly plain in flavour with more aloe than coconut.
  • The texture of the aloe jellies were also fighting with the texture of the sashimi so I just preferred them in another form so I could enjoy them together.
  • All the flavours were very mild and delicate and I just wanted each one to be kicked up a notch because I could barely grasp onto the flavour before it was gone.
  • The Gaba do Xil Godellowas from Spain and it was well balanced with acidity and produced from a Godello grape which I’m not familiar with.
    • It was an impressive white and it kind of pushed my palate further than the dish did, which is unexpected for a Sauvignon Blanc.

Braised Octopus, Saffron Tapioca Crackers - 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • Wine pairing: Vina Gravonia Viura
  • Love it. A restaurant that puts octopus on the menu, I like.
  • They are incredibly smart sea creatures though, and every time I eat one I flashback to the “Crocodile Hunter” and wildlife expert Steve Irwin losing his life to a Stingray…
  • Paying tribute to the smart creature, this was a smart dish.
  • It was a very modern interpretation of a paella.
  • The octopus was braised with paprika and grilled with olive oil and they were incredibly tender with a slight chewiness that was desired.
  • The smoky flavour was infused in the octopus meat and it just had so much depth on the palate and in the nose.
  • The olive oil sauce was made with Portuguese olive oil, which I think is one of the best olive oils.
  • It was thick and fruity and dense enough to hold up to the octopus and there was also some sundried tomato powder (?) in it. If anything, I wanted more of it.
  • I probably could have used some lemon somewhere or maybe even an aioli for some richness.
  • The crispy saffron tapioca crackers mimicked the saffron rice in a paella. I could smell and taste the perfume of saffron.
  • The tapioca starch made the crackers slightly chewy though which wasn’t ideal if eaten with the octopus. Puffed rice or even a saffron prawn cracker might be an alternative.
  • The confit cherry tomato had unfortunately exploded already but I liked the pop of colour it gave.
  • The celery leaf was a bit unexpected, but it played its role as a natural aromatic as well as a palate cleanser.
  • I would have loved to have some shavings of crispy chorizo and I almost wanted just one or two more components to complete the dish. It was just a bit mild, although delicious.
  • The Vina Gravonia Viurawas another Spanish wine and I think I’ll remember the aroma of it forever.
    • It smelt like cheese and there was a smokiness to it that complemented the octopus so well.
    • It was balanced with a sweetness and it was golden in colour.
    • I think it would pair well with any grilled smoky seafood.

Nitro Foie Gras, Brioche, Amarena Cherries, Apple Mostarda - 5/6 (Excellent)

  • Wine pairing: Treana Marsanne-Viognier
  • I could have used a palate cleanser at this point, and I probably could have enjoyed this dish even more with one.
  • This was a sign of moving away from the seafood courses and entering the meat courses.
  • It was actually inspired by Chef David Chang of Momofuku and he serves it as one of the tasting courses at Ko.
  • The original recipe uses a frozen froie gras torchon which is grated into flakes, but in this case Chef used liquid nitrogen as a quick freeze.

 

  • I seriously wanted 50 of these and I could eat it twice a day for breakfast and dessert.
  • The foie gras is basically raw and it just melts in your mouth like buttery sweet snowflakes.
  • It was cured in maple and whiskey, but the booze wasn’t obvious although I picked up on the maple immediately without it being too sweet.
  • It was almost like having a savoury and sweet granola or fruit and foie parfait.
  • The toasted brioche was nice and crunchy and it would be great mixed with honeycomb too.
  • I’m not a fan of traditional Mostarda which is an Italian candied fruit in mustard syrup from a jar, and Chef’s high quality house made version of it was just so much better!
  • The tart Amarena cherries and sweet apples dressed in mustard seeds were perfect with the foie and there was also a savoury sponge toffee in the mix.
  • The apples were tender and not crunchy and the syrupy mustard vinaigrette made it a fruit preserve ideal for meat. That is what Mostarda is intended for, but I just liked this version way better.
  • All of the ingredients paired perfectly with foie gras and the original is served with lychee so this was a reinterpretation.
  • It was interesting because the Treana Marsanne-Viogniersmelt exactly like fresh lychees and it was very fruit forward.
    • I could taste honey and it was sweet and played right into the maple and fruits of the dish.
**Duck Hearts, Horseradish Foam, Crispy Leeks - 5.5/6 (Excellent!)
  • Wine pairing: Cloudline Pinot Noir
  • For me, this was the most “adventurous” the menu got, and up until here there wasn’t anything “scary”. This wasn’t even “scary” for me, but it was exotic. Then again, I’m really open to trying new food, but if your hesitant, don’t be.
  • I loved the presentation! It made me want to cry. The black slate reminded me of my Steak Diane at L’Abattoir and duck heart really never looked so good.
  • When it comes to offal, it’s actually most fresh when it comes frozen and this was the best execution he could have chosen for duck heart.
  • It’s usually pan-fried and thrown on toast or braised, but this was stone seared from a frozen state and thinly shaved like carpaccio.
  • Heart is a very lean meat and the slices were rare and chilled and really comparable to beef carpaccio.
  • Eaten with the horseradish foam it was even more like beef and the crispy leeks gave it perfect texture.
  • It was a very straight forward and simple dish and the acidity was in the horseradish foam which had a bit of sweetness and lemon scent.
  • I would have loved some preserved lemon bits just to enhance the aromatics and give additional texture.
  • A fried quail’s egg on top would be nice too, but that’s just me.
  • The Cloudline Pinot Noirwas served in a proper pinot noir glass and it was from Oregon which is known for some amazing pinot noirs.
    • It had lots of aromas and some oak and it had a deep cherry flavour and a medium-long peppery finish.
    • It was perhaps even a bit stronger than the meat since the meat was executed so finely, but it was still a great pairing.

**Smoked Sturgeon, Tomato Relish6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • Wine pairing: Laughing Stock Syrah
  • ‘sdnf;oaisdn;olkn!! Seriously, I almost threw the plate and kicked the table with this dish.
  • This was my favourite of the night and this is when it peaked.
  • I thought the peak would be with the hearts, but this one had my heart.
  • Honestly, it looked really boring and almost not as pretty as everything else I had seen, but the flavours were right up my alley and it blew me away.
  • The wine pairing was also perfection. PERFECTION.
  • The flavours were just so strong compared to all the previous dishes.
  • It was sweet, savoury, tangy, smoky, aromatic with a bit of heat, but it wasn’t spicy, and it just hit all your senses and taste buds on the first bite.
  • The sturgeon was crispy on both sides and it was mild in flavour, but meaty and firm in texture almost like halibut.
  • The smokiness was so well infused and he used elderwood which is ideal wood for smoking seafood.
  • The tomato relish had flavours of chipotle and tamarind and the sweet and sour factor wasn’t overpowering to the fish, but just made for incredible flavour.
  • Each bite of relish was a juicy explosion of cherry tomatoes and aromatic spices.
  • This dish gave me goose bumps and would make anyone’s toes curl.
  • The Laughing Stock Syrahwas a local BC red wine.
    • Quite frankly, times have changed and it’s no longer that taboo to serve red wine with fish, as long as you know how to do it.
    • This was my favourite pairing of the night.
    • If the wine was made into food this is what it would be.
    • The flavours were honestly almost the exact same and the transition was smooth and seamless.
    • There was a slight buzz of tobacco or spice in the finish.
    • Every sip and bite of food completed with this pairing was truly a happy ending!

**Coffee Crusted Muskox, Sunchokes, Fiddleheads, Elderberry Jus5/6 (Excellent)

  • Wine pairing: Trapiche Bonarda
  • This was the most West Coast the tasting course got and it was very typical Canadian with the ingredients.
  • It was the most familiar in flavours and concept and I think easiest to understand.
  • Muskox is a very prized meat and it’s very lean and comparable to beef tenderloin.
  • It’s considered a game meat, but the gaminess is very mild and less than lamb.
  • The coffee crust was used very mildly and it was just there to make a crust, give a smoky aroma, and enhance the charred quality. I could also taste some pink peppercorn in the crust.
  • The muskox striploin was tender and moist, but it had a slightly mealy texture and it probably should have been served with a sharper knife.
  • The meat was pan seared and roasted in the oven and I’m curious how it would have been prepared sous vide. I’m not sure if that method changes the flavour of the meat as it can with lamb sometimes.
  • I would have liked more elderberry jus to finish off the meat.
  • The jus was sweet and syrupy like a demi glace with perhaps some reduced red wine. Birch syrup would be interesting to use too.
  • Elderberries really go well with game meats, as do Juniper berries, and I would have loved to see some whole ones on the plate too.
  • The side was a medley of roasted and braised wild vegetables like kale, wild mushrooms, baby carrots, fiddleheads, garlic ramps and purple endive.
  • They were juicy and tender yet still crunchy and it was simply flavoured with what tasted like good quality fruity olive oil, a squeeze of lemon or a splash of balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper.
  • The vegetables were cold though so I probably would have liked them better warm.
  • The garlic ramps where fantastic and I can’t wait until more restaurants start using them. I had them first last year at Raincity Grill – see here.
  • The Trapiche Bonardawas another flawless pairing and the meat just melted together with the wine.
    • It was juicy with ripe red fruit and it had big flavours and a slight spice at the end.
    • It would be nice to have a local BC wine pairing with this just to tie in the theme.
  • Another amazing coffee inspired dinner I had was at Le St-Urbain – particularly the Coffee Glazed Sweetbread. There was also the Kona-Coffee Sirloin at The Capital Grille too.

Foie Gras Panna Cotta5.5/6 (Excellent!)

  • Wine pairing: Chateau d’Armajan Sauternes
  • Having two foie gras dishes made my night… although that Smoked Sturgeon could have made my night alone.
  • Foie gras for dessert? Yes please.
  • It kind of reminded me of the Foie Gras Parfait at Hawksworth with the foie gras cotton candy, which is originally from Ideas in Food.
  • In this case it wasn’t a foie gras cotton candy, but another vision for foie gras as dessert.
  • This panna cotta seemed inspired by Grant Achatz’s Alinea‘s Pushed Foie Gras with Sauternes Gelée or his Foie Gras Custard from his “Squab” dish.
  • The foie gras panna cotta was fragrant with vanilla or almond and it had a mild foie after taste, which I wanted more of. Some vanilla bean seeds might be nice too.
  • It was a creamy smooth panna cotta with good texture from crispy feuilletine and rose water scented pavlova or meringue bits.
  • The cloud of raspberry cotton candy gave it a great visual and there were also little dollops of sauce which tasted like confit raspberry reduction or syrup.
  • The dish wasn’t too sweet, but I could have used some fleur de sel or some salt factor to enhance the flavour of the foie gras.
  • This isn’t a traditional dessert and it might not satisfy that sweet tooth, but it was foie gras… so all is forgiven and appreciated.
  • The Chateau d’Armajan Sauterneswas delicious and it was supposed to take a back seat to the panna cotta, but since the foie was a bit mild, it ended up almost being equal.
    • Sauternes is the ideal place to source dessert wines and this was probably sweeter than the dessert with a syrupy texture and honey notes.
  • My other experiences with foie gras for dessert was at The Apron with their Foie Gras Marshmallows, and at Jean-Georges with their Foie Gras Brûlée.

Petit Fours - Raspberry Marshmallows, Orange Blossom Pavlova, Chocolate Toffee and Apple Vanilla Gelée

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