FIG: A Restaurant Worthy of A Date

11 Jun

I love corny, I love food (especially fruit), and I love pick-up lines. One of my favorites is: “Want a raisin? How about a date?” When I went to FIG the jokes and lines in my head ran rampant. FIG is a hotel restaurant, which I know bothers some people but for me it is such a bonus. As much as I love restaurants, I love hotels more. My college application essay was entitled, “Why I deserve to be like Merv” after my idol, Merv Griffin, and the first business plan I ever wrote was for a hotel called Hotel Fruition. I told you fruition was my favorite word. Anyway, this particular night several weeks ago was exactly what I needed. I was with good friends and I got served fantastic food, exactly what the doctor had ordered. Edward, Minty and I were joined by Jackie who reps FIG for a dinner on the patio facing the pool. The Fairmont Hotel is gorgeous and as much as it is historic and classic looking it is still hip and you can do yoga classes down the hall. All in all, a perfect Santa Monica establishment. My favorite point in any relationship is when the other person gets to know my palate. Selfish? Perhaps, but for me that is the most important thing anyone can know about another person. When Matthew Lehman, the Director of Food and Beverage of FIG, came by our table and told us the specials as soon as he said “rabbit” the table went wild. Minty and Edward pointed to me and said, “We know what you are ordering.” I have had a bit of an affair with rabbit (note: not “the rabbit”) and it is now my must have on any menu. I thank Mark Peel and Campanile for making me fall in love with this  bushy tailed critter on a plate all over again. I shouldn’t say that, it tastes like chicken…only way better. Anyway, my entree was decided for me early on so the rest of the meal was a breeze.

Not long after being seated we received a beautiful cherry salad from the chef, Ray Garcia. Tis the cherry season and after going cherry crazy all week, I was happy to have some more in a lighter fashion. Instead of popping them like peanuts all week while watching tv like I was doing at my house. This dish was elegant and light and perfectly highlighted what was in peak season, the main concept behind FIG. We were served a very nice Pinot Noir, called Bonhan-Dillon, with an even cuter story regarding pictures of the cat that was bit by a snake drawn by the wine maker’s daughter. It didn’t stop there, our table also indulged in cocktails. This Blueberry & Thyme one that Minty ordered was my favorite.

Under the Snacks and Starters sections of the menu we had the Buffalo Mozzeralla with Hand-Mashed Pesto, which I loved even though my sweet thoughtful Edward warned me that it may be too salty for my liking. He knows that I am salt sensitive and I know that he thinks that pesto is a dish made from the gods. We also had the Blistered “Little Gem” Romaine Hearts, which was like a deconstructed caeser salad with white anchovies.

Just like all good Jewish girls, I then had a delicious special of Sweet Prawns and the famous Bacon Wrapped Bacon. The shrimp was sweet, succulent, and plump and my favorite of the starters. Eating in this way, where the Chef gives you only what is in peak season really provides you, the eater, with the best quality of ingredients.  I know that this blasphemy for any foodie to say but I don’t love bacon. I like it in its thicker pork belly form but bacon alone just doesn’t do it for me. This bacon wrapped bacon was a whole different story, it was a nice thick piece of pork belly and then the thin crispy bacon surrounded it.  it was a nice change to both and it is funny how the same ingredient can still complement one another.

Manchego with Olives and Almonds was the last of our snacks, it was good but all cheese at FIG is, I will get in to that a bit later. Let me just say the second coming may be FIG’s very own personal “Cheesus.”

For my entree I had the special of the day, which was Rabbit in a White Mole Sauce. This is not a typical dish here at FIG but it should be. Apparently, on this particular day, Chef Ray Garcia was at the Farmer’s Market and saw that they had rabbit and decided then and there to buy it and make a meal around it. I, of course, have heard of white chocolate but never have I heard of a white mole sauce. It was sweet but not too sweet. The rabbit was still the main focus of the dish but it had the most perfect accents. I, like Grace Adler, love raisins in everything and this dish had them and the golden variety. There was a nice chard underneath that cut some of the sweetness, and all around this was a perfect dish. Edward said that he can’t remember the last time he tried such a good entree, and quite frankly neither can I. Mission Fruition completed, this was a foodgasm-tastic dish.

Jackie had the Red Beet Risotto, which was the most beautiful and healthiest of all of the dishes. There simply isn’t enough colorful dishes and this one filled the quota. The beautiful reds and purples of the beets dyed itself onto the rice. Underneath the risotto was creme fraiche and on top of it was mixed greens and golden beets. If beets are nature’s candy, which I believe them to be, then this dish was nature’s art and symphony. It was as pretty as it was fresh, tasty, and healthy.

Edward had the Twelve Ounce New York Strip, which was not quite as exciting as the other dishes but I do remember that I stole quite a bit of his fries. It was one of those nights where we all sampled off of our neighbors plates. Minty had bunnies as a kid, like the story goes two bunnies lead to many, and so she has an aversion to eating rabbit. I completely understand but normally Minty and I will be torn among the same dishes on the menu, so she is a good friend to have around the dining table. If the special of all specials wasn’t offered then I would have easily ordered the plate she had Short Rib and Pancetta Meatloaf. I love meatloaf and this was unlike any other I have ever had. With the specials excluded, this is the dish that is a must have at FIG.

The desserts were another place where we went crazy. Each person ordered one and then we also got a cheese plate. We had the Citrus Panna Cotta, Chocolate Pot Au Creme, Nutella and Chocolate Tart, and Peach Sorbet. I can’t even pick a favorite, they were all so fantastic. Alright, gun to my head, the Nutella Tart with candied hazelnuts and marshmallow cream. I am normally a fruity dessert girl but this dish was really fantastic. I couldn’t eat more than a couple of bites, but when it comes to dessert that is all that you need.

I mentioned “Cheesus” earlier but he really is a mystical presence at FIG. When we first saw him at the restaurant, I made a comment that he reminded me of a mad scientist. He is crazy but about the most sacred of things, cheese. He greeted the tables with such authority and when we ordered the cheese plate for dessert we knew we needed his guidance. Funny enough, as I am typing this “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West  just came on my iTunes shuffle so here is my homage: “I’m just trying to say the way school need teachers. The way Kathie Lee needed Regis that’s the way I need Cheesus” I have no idea what kind of cheese we got, nor do I remember the order he recommended we eat it, but I do now that I trusted him and he didn’t lead me astray.

Final verdict, yes, FIG is a hundred percent worthy of making a date for. You will have delicious fresh seasonal food, be told interesting stories about wine, have a cheese savior come to your rescue, and maybe even get to the next level with your friends. This was the night that Edward and I took our relationship to the next level, he got to know my palate. Swoon!

Some more reading:

Minty’s recap on this dinner

The Delicious also just wrote about FIG

I also sampled their new Hot Dogs by the pool at TOTNLA, the Taco Dog is OMG good!

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