Reviewed By: Leslie & Andy
When Lily tells her friends she went to a fancy dinner to celebrate her graduation, they will inevitably ask "Where did you have your fancy dinner last night? The Mall?" Well, yes actually. Fashion Square Mall has quite a few very nice restaurants, which do not even require you to enter the mall, per se. Francine, along with Nobu, Toca Madera, Zinque and others are attached to the mall perimeter. Drive up in your Ferrari, hand the keys to the valet, walk five feet and there you are: at the front door of the French Riviera.

Ambience: From the outside Francine is a bit cold contemporary, but on the inside a clean Art Deco-Mediterranean vibe with lots of lighting and buzzing with activity. We sat on the patio which gives you a red carpet overlook of the exotic cars coming to valet. You get some activity from the cars and people entering the mall, but for the most part it felt casual and welcoming. The place settings, menu, and decor give the air of sophistication but not requiring of a sport coat or dress. 

Quality: The menu offers outstanding French classics--Salad Nicoise, Cote de Boeuf, or Duck a la Provencale--but, the menu is primarily comprised of fresh Mediterranean style dishes.  Healthier options, cooked in more olive oil than butter, and seasoned with fresh herbs and a touch of spice.  We started with Beef Carpaccio which was outstanding. Paper thin slices of high quality beef seasoned with olive oil, thin slices of hard-boiled egg, fresh herbs, and parmesan crisps which add an unexpected flavor and crunch.  Andy and Lily moved on to the Grilled Octopus (I've see too many documentaries about our tentacled friends. I just can't seem to eat them.  It would be like trying to bake my cat. ) The octopus was grilled perfectly tender and served with lovely chorizo verde, adding a nice spice, freshened up with some bitter frisee. All in all our entrees: Bone Marrow Cacio e Pepe, Pork Iberico de Bellota, and the Tortellini were enjoyed.  Andy's pork was strongly seasoned--for a guy that loves salt as much as Andy that's saying something. My Cacio e Pepe had great classic flavor, but the pasta was slightly undercooked and sort of stuck together. The menu is fantastic, but the execution seems to miss just ever so slightly.

Service: The hosts greeted us warmly and took us to our table almost immediately.  We were served our choice of fancy bubbly water or regular old still water--so of course we went with the fancy water.  We spare no expense! Our server was very professional, very personable, and extremely helpful with the menu and suggestions.  He had some fun anecdotes and was very accommodating. All courses were served in a timely manner by professional food runners (no food auctioning here!) Dishes were cleared efficiently, with little interruption to your conversation. All plusses in my book!

Value: At Francine we definitely paid for the pleasure of ogling the exotic cars in the parking lot. Though the food was good and the service was fantastic--we did love the great menu variety--the check was a little hefty. Granted it included a bottle of wine, dessert, and a couple of dessert wines.  We left dinner happy, chatty, and satisfied but we averaged over $100 per person. If we were to return, I think lunch with the ladies or happy hour with the boys might be perfect. Ordering shareable hors d'oeuvres, salads, or entrees would help bring the price tag down a touch.

It was a lovely evening and a great dinner to celebrate Lily's accomplishment.  It's not every day your graduate from high school!! So we left jovial with good memories.  We will return to Francine happily when we are searching for a slightly healthier option when it comes to fine dining. We did like that we were satisfied with our dinner but didn't feel like we were going to need to run around the mall a few times to burn off the calories. We also enjoyed the more exotic choices on the menu. Overall we had a great time! We'd certainly recommend it to anyone seeking an upscale restaurant for a nice evening.