Sunday, July 22, 2012

Where to Eat: Olive Oil Infused Dishes @ FIG & OLIVE

The Eats: Mediterranean-influenced cuisine, infused with one of 30+ different olive oils

The Vibes: Light, airy, relaxed

Good for: A casual yet still sophisticated outing in a relaxed setting…it gets packed as the night progresses…

When-to-Go: Lunch, Weekend Brunch or Dinner

With-Whom-to-Go: Great date spot and also good for groups of friends or family

The $ Factor: $$: Appetizers are about $16; Entrées are between $17-$45; Crostinis are 3 for $10 or 6 for $19; and desserts are $10

The 4-1-1: FIG & OLIVE is big on the East Coast, with four locations established in New York before making its way west last year. This Melrose Place location, just inches from The Beverly Center, is the first – and also the flagship restaurant – for the West Coast; there’s also one in Newport Beach

I’ll Be Back…: For more crostinis. OMG – I can never get enough!

Immediately when I first stepped foot into FIG & OLIVE last year, I was reminded of my excursions throughout Southern France and Southern Spain. It started with the décor. The simplistic collage of whites and shades of browns, accented with splashes of oranges and greens. A tranquil airiness permeates throughout the restaurant’s main dining area, patios and upstairs Fig Champagne & Cocktail Bar. I was no longer in Los Angeles; I was in a Mediterranean villa on a coastal town in Spain or France or Italy…

I’ve come to like not only its great ambiance, but also FIG & OLIVE's light fare, often times tossed with tons of – well, you guessed it – figs, olives and olive oils. By far, my favorites are the crostinis, pictured below – squares of toasted bread topped with varied colorful ingredients. If you’re indecisive like me and would order the whole menu if given the opportunity, then ordering a few crostinis is a great way to easily sample a lot of different flavors.

Last month, I was invited to check out the new summer menu, which includes more than 20 additional French Riviera-inspired dishes (YAY!). Now a couple months earlier, business entrepreneur Michael Ferrera (who’s claim to fame includes custom clothing designs, fashion styling and now authoring a book, The Perfect Gentleman’s Pocket Guide) expressed interest in being a #WilsonsGuide guest blogger, since he’s interested in expanding to write about food (talk about ambition!). I definitely had to see if he had a knack for knowing all about eating, drinking and being merry and I also thought it would be nice to have a gentleman's perspective instead of always mine for a change, so I asked him to come check out the new menu with me to hear what he had to say.

We met one early Thursday evening for dinner and got down to the basics of exploring the new menu. We decided to each go with the $37 Prix Fixe 3-Course Dinner, which, by the way, is highly recommended if you want to try a lot on the menu, without ordering too much food.

Here’s a look at our insight on FIG & OLIVE’s new summer menu!:

On the baked olive oil breads
Miss Wilson: “I could eat bread for every meal, so I thoroughly enjoyed FIG & OLIVE’s baked olive oil bread, accompanied by three different, distinct olive oils for dipping: one from the Manzanilla olive, one from Spain and one from Chile.”

On the Crostinis, which included two from the new summer menu – the Cucumber, Shallot, Yogurt, Pink Peppercorn Crostini...and the Burrata, Tomato, Herbs, Balsamic Crostini (both pictured below)
Mr. Ferrera: “It’s a great starter. My favorite was the tomato. I’m a big tomato fan, so the crushed tomato was my favorite. The mushroom was my second favorite. The cucumber? Wasn’t the biggest fan of, partly because it was a mix between sweet and spicy. A lot of people I think will enjoy it, but it just wasn’t my thing.”
Miss Wilson: “The tomatoes are very ripe and flavorful, with just the right hint of salt. On the cucumber one, the cucumber is super fresh, and the yogurt gives it a nice flair.” 

On the Fig Gorgonzola Manchego Salad
Mr. Ferrera: “The salad was absolutely official. I enjoyed it. I think what I enjoyed the most about it was the apples – how the apples were almost thinly shaved. I’m a big fan of apples inside a salad. The olives were great as well.”
Miss Wilson: “First, let me say that I’m not one to order salads when I go out, but I’m very glad I ordered this one. It’s such a colorful medley of unique tastes that merge together well. The tart olives, the sweet apples and figs, the intense bite to the Manchego cheese…And what makes it is the light dressing, made from an 18 year old fig balsamic Arbequina olive oil.” 

On the Chicken Samosas
Mr. Ferrera: “A little bit spicy. I like the kick of it . Very crispy, very crunchy – which is important anytime you have samosas.”

On the Truffle Risotto
Mr. Ferrera: “The risotto was perfect in my opinion. Very cheesy and a nice blend of the truffles and the mushrooms. I think it was great. If I were to come here, I would hesitate to order it again just because I want to try something new, but I would want to order it again. It was that good.”
Miss Wilson: “It’s almost impossible to make really amazing risotto and in fact, there’s only one place in the city that has made risotto that I truly, truly enjoy. FIG & OLIVE’s risotto is right up there with it, having the right balance of creaminess, cheesiness and truffle. You could also taste the White Truffle oil. I couldn’t stop eating it.” 

On the Paella del Mar

Mr. Ferrera: “Your paella was awesome. I’ve had some great paellas, and that one is definitely top-shelf as well. So, I would definitely consider ordering it. I enjoyed the risotto more, but the paella was great.”
Miss Wilson: “I’m extremely particular about my paella, because I’ve had some amazing ones while traveling in Spain. But FIG & OLIVE’s interpretation was excellent and includes scallops, shrimp, calamari and mussels. I loved the addition of Hojiblanca Olive Oil…I had never had a paella with olive oil in it before, and it gave it a noticeable kick.”

On the Green Apple Sorbet with citrus and olive oil
Mr. Ferrera: “The green apple sorbet was very refreshing and very crisp, very light. And there’s a grapefruit actually inside of it, which gives it a little bit of a tart and sweet taste. It gives a good balance.”
Miss Wilson: “A lovely summer dessert. Light and with the right balance of tart and sweet.”

On the Apple Tart
Mr. Ferrera: “The apple tart was official. I actually will get that next time. That was a great dessert. I’m a big fan of ice cream and the pastries, so the apple tart is highly recommended.”
Miss Wilson: “I liked the flakiness of the tart and that vanilla ice cream was quite amazing.” 

Overall Impressions?
Mr. Ferrera: “From the gentleman’s view, I think the atmosphere is great for a date. I will say more an evening, early dining date versus a late 8’o’clock, 9’o’clock dinner. Try the outside – I haven’t tried it, but it looked like that could be on point.”

Miss Wilson: Well, you already know I’m a fan of FIG & OLIVE. Good to see that Mr. Ferrera passed the #WilsonsGuide “test” of knowing where to eat, drink and be merry in Los Angeles, which means definitely look out for a few new guest blog posts from him in the very near future!

And of course, remember: the next time you’re in the mood for seasonal foods with a Mediterranean flair in what feels like a Mediterranean oasis, you know where to turn – FIG & OLIVE.

See you there soon!

For More Information:
FIG & OLIVE, Facebook, @FIGandOLIVE_MP 

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