It’s easy to see why New York/California import Fig & Olive has been such a big hit with the “Social X-Ray” crowd (thanks, Tom Wolfe!); everyone looks attractive here, whether in the lovely diffused light of day or the golden-hued evening setting.
And the super-chic restaurant has been embraced by A-lister fashionistas and wannabes alike, which crowd both levels of Fig & Olive for salads, crudo and crostini at lunch, and more substantial drinking and dining at night. Dining on the open-air garden terrace overlooking Oak Street in late spring and summer—assuming that warm weather ever comes again—will be an added bonus.
If you’re a cocktail drinker, sip one of the signature cocktails as you peruse the menu (or wait to meet that special someone in the lounge) because they are mighty tasty, infused with all sorts of Mediterranean inspired flavors, like blood orange, figs, herbs and olive oil. Our favorites were the Summer in Provence ($12), made with gin, house-made rosemary-thyme syrup, muddled blackberries and fresh lime juice and tasting like I imagine the French Riviera would if it could be bottled. The Fig & Olive ($12) was another winner; although the ingredients read like a train wreck (cucumber-infused vodka, blood orange olive oil and blood orange purée, egg white, simple syrup, celery and lime juice), it was quite delicious, like sunshine in a glass.
Executive chef Anthony Reyes has fashioned a playful and ingredient-driven menu that sings of sunny Mediterranean climes. The parade of Crostini (3 for $12, 6 for $21) is the play here for a gallop through the clean flavors of the Mediterranean, which here embraces Spanish, Italian, French and Moroccan cuisines. They make their own olive-oil rich bread, which is then sliced and toasted to form the perfect crostini base. The Prosciutto, Ricotta, Fig, Olive and Walnut and the Goat Cheese with Caramelized Onion and Chive are classic combos that work well together, but it’s worth seeking out the more unusual Heirloom Carrot with Charmoula and Carrot Tapenade or the Crab with Heirloom Tomato, Avocado and Apple Aioli.
Satisfy your raw bar craving with the Crudo Tasting ($19) plate, which is perfect for sharing. That way, you can try the Salmon Crudo (orange, grapefruit, dill, lemon and scallion), the Tuna (cucumber, chive, cilantro, lemon and sesame dressing) and the Beef Tartar (grass-fed, hand minced filet mignon with caper, shallots, parsley and Dijon), each drizzled with a different olive oil.
Fig & Olive is all about the olive (although yes, figs do crop up in various guises on the menu). The breadbasket arrives with a trio of olive oils for dipping and tasting; if you find one you like, you can buy a bottle to take home from their retail collection.
Other winning appetizers included the Truffle Mushroom Croquettes ($14), six glorious nuggets of crunchy exteriors surrounding molten yumminess within, but drizzled a little heavily with truffle oil. A little goes a loooooong way. But the croquettes themselves? Mmmmmm.
Octopus a la Gallega ($16) makes a stunning presentation. The cephalopod is braised, thinly sliced and fanned out to cover the plate, then topped with roasted heirloom potatoes, black olives, basil, arugula and a piquant Spanish smoked paprika-fresh lemon dressing. Gorgeous. The lone salad we tried—the Fig & Olive Salad ($18)—sported twelve different ingredients. Way too much going on here.
One Fish, Two Fish
We couldn’t get enough of the Mediterranean Branzino ($29) glazed with fig and 18-year balsamic vinegar and served atop olive oil mashed potatoes, sautéed snow peas and figs. The branzino was moist and flaky and the fruity vinegar gave it a lovely sweet/sour balance that didn’t overpower the fish.
While laden with plump seafood (including black tiger shrimp, sea scallop, calamari and mussels) the Paella del Mar ($29) felt lackluster despite the addition of chicken, peas, bell peppers and artichokes. Seasoning was not spot on, and I prefer paella made with Bomba rice rather than Arborio. The best part of any paella is the soccarat, the nearly burnt bottom crust that forms as the rice cooks, and the Arborio produces a wetter rice dish, so it just didn’t happen, despite the individual steel paella pan.
The Fig & Olive Chicken Tajine ($27), a spicy Moroccan stew served over steamed couscous, was just right. A generous amount of tender, fall-off-the-bone chicken vied for attention with veggies and dried fruits in a contest won by our stomachs.
If you’re looking for a sweet ending, the Chocolate Pot de Crème ($10) will satisfy. Its smooth bittersweet chocolaty goodness is found under a crown of vanilla cream, ably abetted by a crunchy praline financier. Executive pastry chef Andrew LeStourgeon has also come up with a simple but effective Dessert “Crostini” ($8) composed of creamy mascarpone, amarena cherries, pistachio shortbread crumbs and micro-basil leaves that is just the right amount of sweet without cloying.
Whether you stop in at lunch, brunch or dinner, the scene at Fig & Olive is always happening. If you’re laden down with Oak Street shopping bags, or just looking for a sunny cocktail to remind you of better days, it’s a fine choice for respite.
3.5 out of 5 stars (B+)
Fig & Olive
104 E. Oak St.