Sunday, January 30, 2011


we first visited frazer's many, many months ago and were totally wowed by our entire experience. there's no explanation for why it's taken us so long to return, but we did one recent friday night, with a friend who wanted us to show him something different.

benton park

located near anheuser-busch, frazer's is a coolly decorated, intimate restaurant with an interesting layout. the entrance spits you right into a casual, modern lounge--perfect for an end-of-the-week rendezvous with some friends. an area to the right of the bar features a coffee table and some comfy couches and chairs, like you're sitting in a friend's living room. it would be very inviting if not for the fact that the patrons waiting to be seated are forced to encroach upon this space for lack of anywhere else to stand. the dining room entrance is the most striking feature: a large wave-like marble mosaic surrounds the opening and indicates the separation of lounge from restaurant. a room to the left features a nice bench all the way around, underneath a mural that feels oddly styled for this establishment, and is, frankly, pretty forgettable. but there's a nice fireplace, and the light fixtures are really neat.

we have to say, the first time we visited, the service was outstanding. our server was truly very nice and knowledgeable, genuinely concerned about our dining experience. we're inclined to use the word "gentleman." we mean that: he was very mild-mannered, careful, attentive. this time, with a different server, not so much. the words "sardonic" and "flippant" come to mind. he was wrong about a few ingredients in the dishes, we had to ask for the complimentary bread basket ten minutes after ordering, and when we voiced our dissatisfaction with a particular dish, he was unhelpful and, worse, unconcerned. and don't even get us started on the snarky hostess. so, even though we were seated feeling unwelcome and bothersome (to both the hostess and this particular server), we were completely ready to ignore it for the sake of our food, because on our last visit it was perfection. shitty service be damned, at least they're not making our meals! 

oh, boy....

we started with--you guessed it--hummus, served with feta, kalamatas, and pumpkin seed flatbread. the hummus was pedestrian. and not ratso rizzo "i'm walkin' heah!" pedestrian; more like your grandma shuffling across the street pedestrian. the flavor really came only from the toppings, with a very minimal contribution from the flatbread. the pumpkin seeds don't come through at all, they're too fragile, too floury. it left us wanting more--but from schlafly.
next on the bill was the avocado salad, a lettuce-less affair of avocado, celery, red onion, tomato, and pecans dressed with a cumin seed vinaigrette. sadly, the celery dominated the other vegetables and the cumin seeds were ridiculously overpowering. this salad was seriously misbalanced, but as this is a housemade dressing, it could easily be different on another night. and you could always go the route of ramekin on the side. the pecans, when we got one, complemented the smoothness of the avocado nicely and helped balance the bite of the celery, but this was more disappointing and confusing overall. (did no one taste this dressing? or look at it?)

finally, for entrees we ordered two of the evening's specials: the stuffed poblano and the vegan curry. bad news first. the vegan curry was an absolute disgrace, and a slap in the face. we were told it was a coconut milk-based curry; we received a stir fry. we wish we were joking. we could pick up on some indian curry powder, but it lacked any heat and tasted like they used a generic chinese stir fry sauce. nothing to bring out the curry flavor or develop it at all. let's not forget the room-temperature white rice. after we asked our waiter to take it back, he returned it to us in even worse shape than before. the rice was even colder, and the vegetables were obviously scraped out of the bowl (leaving a messy, unsightly smear) and allegedly "re-fired." the curry powder was visibly caked onto the vegetables and sprinkled on the rice, in a vain, misguided attempt to produce more flavor. but enough about that one. if you're offered this dish, just say no, kids.
the poblano, on the other hand, was quite tasty and showed that some thought actually went into its creation. served over some black beans and stuffed with rice and cheese, the poblano pepper was cooked very well. the breading added some nice crunchy texture, as did the cabbage. we were happy enough with this one, though it was still a far cry from the exquisitely crafted, perfectly presented dishes we remembered frazer's for. sadly, what really made the poblano a failure was its temperature--it was lukewarm by the time it was brought to our table.

now, we know it sounds like we're being pretty hard on frazer's, but we want to stress that this was one experience and that it couldn't have been more opposite the first time we went. lois actually wrote the restaurant upon returning home after a car ride of venting and trying to figure it out. frazer himself replied, very sympathetic. we are absolutely going back because there's no reason why a restaurant with this reputation and potential would perform so pathetically. more to the point, this is a restaurant that is committed to providing ample vegetarian options and we'd really like to make this one of our staples. we are convinced it won't be like this next time, and we'll let you know about it in part two. maybe just don't go on a friday night when it's slammed.


vegetarian-friendly score:
Frazer's on Urbanspoon

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