Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dinner at Frances

[ Originally posted else Jan 17, 2012 ]

I returned to Frances tonight after 1.5 years.  Many of the aspects of the restaurant were exactly the same, notably:
  • I appreciate the casual, laid back setting. Being able to wear jeans to a Michelin starred restaurant and not be slightly underdressed is great.
  • The house wine is totally decent, and only $1 per ounce, and you only pay for what you drink. Since I can only handle small amounts of wine right now, this is awesome, because I do get to enjoy the pairing of wine with food (normally I have to skip this since I can't have a full glass of wine).
  • Prices were totally reasonable, particularly for the quality of ingredients.
  • Tables are super close together, you can't help but listen to neighbor's conversations. I think we were closer to our neighbors tonight than we were at the communal table at Camino last night!
  • House filtered still or sparkling water, free!
My overall impression this time around ... meh. Nothing was bad, but nothing was particularly good nor memorable. It has the feel of a lovely neighborhood restaurant, and if it really was convenient and in my neighborhood I'd go back, but I certainly don't understand the 3 month wait for a table. Some of my opinion certainly comes from the fact that I'm spoiled and eat a lot of good food on a regular basis. And some of it probably comes from ordering the wrong things - we didn't get the top 4 items that people rave about: the chickpea fritters with aoili, the bacon beignets with creme fraiche, the lumberjack cake, or the chocolate clafoutis.
Warm spiced almonds.
To start, you are given complimentary warm nuts when you are seated. A nice change from standard bread, although it reminded me of being on American Airlines (this isn't a bad thing, the warm nuts are always great!) The spices weren't all that distinguishable, but the nuts being warm was nice.
Grilled calamari with pickled currants, fennel, arugula, kabocha squash in lemon vinaigrette.
The calamari was grilled and had a nice smokey/charred flavor. It wasn't rubbery at all. I love squash and the chunks of kabocha squash were a nice consistency, not too mushy, not too firm. The fennel was crispy and added a nice crunchy fresh texture. But, the dish didn't really come together all that well and it was way overdressed with a very salty and lemony dressing. The greens were completely overpowered by the dressing, I couldn't finish them.
Baked cherrystone clams with winter greens, fennel, scallops, and bacon cream, topped with breadcrumbs and bacon crumbles.
The clams were chopped up and baked in the creamy sauce. The prevailing taste here was bacon (which is a good taste of course), but I didn't really taste clam at all. Nor did I detect any scallop whatsoever. And the breadcrumb layer was too thick, making entire spoonfuls mostly just taste like breadcrumbs. Meh.
Carnaroli risotto with crab, salsify, and meyer lemon.
After the previous night's amazing roasted crab dinner at Camino, I saw crab on the menu and got excited. Unfortunately, the crab was pretty lost in the creamy risotto. It was there for sure, but I couldn't really taste it, as the buttery/creamy sauce was overpowering. The rice was slightly al dente, which was certainly nicer than being mushy. Meh.
Wheat flour crepe crispelles with robiola nostrana, ricotta, parmesan, braised winter greens, wild mushrooms.
This was an interesting dish. A crepe stuffed with a blend of three cheeses and braised winter greens, rolled up and fried, and served with assorted wild mushrooms. Not what I had in mind when I ordered it.

Reading the description, I expected something more like a cannelloni. Somehow I thought I was ordering a pasta dish that would be bursting with a creamy brie-like cheese and delicious winter greens and mushrooms. Since I love brie, greens, and mushrooms, this sounded fantastic. Instead, this was more like spanokapita. The crepe being fried made it much more like a crisp filo dough and the filling was very ricotta-based and heavy on the finely chopped greens. The mushrooms were only on the outside, and I didn't really taste the robiola at all.

I did really enjoy the mushrooms though, well cooked, great flavors. Would not order again.
Pink Lady Apple Gallette with rum raisin ice cream (and caramelized banana and candied peanuts).
I love warm pie and ice cream, so this sounded perfect.

It was indeed served warm. I'm often disappointed with warm dessert and ice cream dishes as the pie is rarely warm enough, but this gallette was a nice temperature. But, the pastry dough was just kinda there, lacking any defining characteristics, not buttery, not flaky, just kinda mushy. Frozen Pillsbury dough is probably better. The apple filling wasn't spiced particularly well. The apples were cooked consistently, not too mushy nor firm. Well executed in some ways, but not very good.

The ice cream was Humphrey Slocombe Rum Raisin. Very boozy. Served at the correct temperature/consistency, not too hard, not too melty. But, I didn't really care for it.

Underneath the ice cream was caramelized bananas and candied peanuts. Those do not usually come with this dessert (normally served with chocolate clafoutis, alongside caramel sauce and salted caramel ice cream), but I was really torn between the two desserts and caramelized bananas sounded soooo good, so I asked to have them included in my dessert, and they humored me. The caramelized banana was everything I wanted it to be, with a lovely caramel layer on top. I probably would have loved the other dessert ...
Related Posts with Thumbnails