Tops, Knight & Day, Denny's and fast food joints. What do these have in common? Heart attack food? Open 24 hours? Desperation eats? Yah, pretty all of those traits and more... That, essentially is what we are facing as eating destinations since our freakin' league games are so late. In fact, over the next 2 months, no games are earlier than 10:00pm. Most are going to be after 11:00! I think it is time to change leagues. So when I got an email from The Fray hoping I'd pay them a visit in the next little while, it seemed unlikely. They do open until midnight, but their last call is at 11:00pm. For us, the only time we could even possibly make it there in time was our 9:00pm game coming up. We miraculously made it by 10:45, a full 15 minutes prior to last call. How did we achieve this? Simple. Gadget Girl and Emilicious actually made it out of the changing room within 20 minutes (as if you haven't already guessed, this is a co-ed league, and no, we do not change in the same dressing room!). Even more amazing was the fact that Milhouse made it out at around the same time. Normally, he likes his long, hot showers... uh...
On looks alone, I really liked the concept and vibe of the place. The first thing that caught my attention was the table arcade game that boasted classics such as Ms. Pacman, Galaga and Space Invaders! The North wall was adorned with various board games which we could play at our leisure. Way cool. But most rad of all was the Grown Up Activity Sheet at each table. Consider it a localized scavenger hunt with items such as a hoodie, old-school Chuck Taylors and a blogger with a digital camera... hmmm... Anyways, we decided to share some appies as a group and sorta quasi-shared some mains as well. Gadget Girl decided on a salad for herself. Apparently, she wants to maintain her girlish figure, much like Milhouse. Despite covering a good part of their menu, the owner decided to treat us to 3 bonus appies. And were we glad he did because we wouldn't have had the good fortune of trying the Freaky Potatoes. These house made rosemary-infused thin chips were graced with green onions, bacon, cheddar, hot sauce and sour cream. A complete hit with our table, these had it all - texture, spice, cool, salty and cheesy.
Next up were the F-Bombs. No, Milhouse wasn't reliving the choice words he had during the game or nor was it myself going into a tirade about Richmond drivers either. Rather, these were their rendition of Devils on Horseback. Instead of prunes, these were bacon-wrapped figs finished off with a balsamic reduction. For all intents and purposes, the same "sweet mixed with salty-smokiness" still applied. As such, these were pretty well-received. However, my personal favourite had to be the Portobello Fries. These panko-encrusted fungi were a textural delight. The super crunchy exterior gave way to a perfectly cooked mushroom "fry". Not much in the way of seasoning though, other than the truffle aioli which added a double-dose of Earthiness.
Moving past the comped items, we had the Duck Fat-Fried Chicken. That's right folks. Not a misprint. The chicken drumsticks were fried in duck fat. Due to the richness of the fat, the exterior of the drumsticks were fried to a golden crisp. Wonderful texture with the rendered chicken skin which became a thin layer of crunchiness. With that being said, we would've liked to see the chicken meat cooked a little less. Served on the side were Parmesan sour cream dip and Nước chấm. I preferred the sour cream since it actually adhered to the meat. The Vietnamese fish sauce dip had a hard time penetrating the chicken meat.
Our last appie was the Pulled Pork Sliders served on a purple yam bun. Not sure if these were really the purple yam buns, but in terms of texture, they were indeed dense. Probably too dense and really should've been toasted. Furthermore, the pork was a tad dry and it required a good dousing of BBQ sauce. The sauce itself was thin and lacking in smokiness. Overall, these sliders were probably the weakest of the appies we tried. Moving onto the mains, the first thing that stood out on the menu was the Fat Bastard Pork Belly. This was a fairly large piece of belly with a crispy crackling on top. The fat did not exactly melt-in-our mouths and the meat was a bit chewy. It was accompanied by horseradish slaw, caramelized apple rings and pork jus. This dish has potential if the belly could be prepared differently.
The Mac and Cheese also caught our fancy and it was pretty decent. I would've preferred a touch more sharpness and some more of the rich bechamel sauce. The radiatore pasta was al dente and it really held onto the sauce well. The crumb topping added a nice crunch. Although it didn't blow our socks off, this was way better than the one I had at the Mac Shack (or maybe because the Mac Shack was just not very good in general). Milhouse once again went for a burger in the form of the Fray Burger. I gave it a try and the Pemberton beef patty was actually quite moist and flavourfully seasoned. It had a nice sear too. The lettuce and tomatoes were fresh, however, the bun was too dense for my taste. Overall, a solid burger. Now, with Sweet Tooth in attendance, we had no choice but to order a few desserts. I gave the Chocolate Espresso Brownie a try first. On the menu, it was incorrectly printed at $14.95. At first, we thought it had gold flakes or something. Turns out it was only $5.95. Curiously, the outside of the brownie was more moist than the inside, which was dry (probably due to the chocolate sauce). We didn't get a huge hit of espresso, but the brownie was indeed chocolaty.
If the brownie got mixed reviews, the Orange Panna Cotta was unanimously given thumbs up. It was silky, not overly sweet and bursting with flavour. It was very fragrant and refreshing. Furthermore, it was a relatively large portion. This was a satisfying end to a somewhat uneven meal. Most of the appies were pretty darn good (except for the pulled pork sliders), the dinner entrees needed some refinement, the burger was solid and as mentioned, we liked the panna cotta over the brownie. So in essence, they were batting at .600, which is above average. So assuming you pick the right items, the Fray is a pretty neat place to hang out and grab a bite (especially the appies).
- Very cool concept with the retro games and such
- Some interesting menu items with equally interesting names
- The appies are generally pretty good
- For the entrees we tried, some tweaks are needed