Frilu is short for friluftsliv, a Norwegian concept of being one with nature that twins with the seasonal, local tasting menu concept here.
This is subtly indicated by a snippet of “On the Heights” by Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen, which goes, “There’s a bench, a stove, sweet smelling air. And time to think at leisure.” What’s left out preceding that is “Here in this deserted dwelling. I have housed my wealth of treasure.”
This is your first clue that everything at Frilu may not be as it seems. The feeling is emulated in the decor, walls that might appear flat at first gradually developing sedimentary-like layers.
There’s no à la carte menu here, apart from a few bar snacks. For a full meal be prepared to choose from two tiers of tasting menus with poetic names Ibsen would approve of, like a seven-course “Calm spring, warm night” ($75) and 10-course “Lavish spring, summer at hand” ($95).
The latter starts with the “Lar-eo.” Boggling the senses, this savoury bite creates what looks like an Oreo cookie out of blueberry and black quinoa flour with whipped rendered pork fat with toasted spices in the middle for the “icing.”
You’re intended to twist the halves apart like a real Oreo, though there’s only a hint of sweetness to the savoury, fatty cookie imposter.
A curated alcohol pairing with this menu is $55, an Okunomatsu Junmai Daiginjo sparkling sake with a clean finish complementing lighter dishes.
A. cepa takes its name from the Latin word for onion and this dish is indeed an ode to the aromatic, a whole roasted shallot sitting on an airy cloud of smoked onion puree.
Young artichoke is roasted and served with a tart lemon puree and herb-y parsley puree. A dehydrated garlic, anchovy, sourdough and brown butter crumble that imitates the look of charcoal.
Viet. beef is a dish of very fatty, chewy beef tendon that might be a bit much for some, though it has been slow braised with Chinese rock sugar and soy. It’s finished with some raw endive and a funky scallop chip made from shattered sheets of dehydrated scallop puree.
Mouflon is a dish of lamb with “milk, grass” according to the menu, actually a garlic puree and “green emulsion” made from whatever seasonal greens are on hand, from sorrel to arugula and kale.
River stones are actually mochi-like carrot dumplings of soft carrot puree and ginger encased in gelid skins, coloured with carbonized coconut husk and sitting in a carrot broth.
A patio out front has the potential to seat eight. Frilu is owned by Sandra Troiano and John-Vincent Troiano (also Executive Chef), So Sakata taking on the role of Head Chef.