Thursday, August 20, 2009

Notable Appetizers @ FIG Restaurant

The Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica is located near the ocean. The hotel is luxurious and beautiful, with its long driveway lined with palm trees and its hotel restaurant that has garnered much praise. FIG Restaurant is known for its fresh ingredients from the nearby Farmers Market. The restaurant comprises of the dining room and a covered patio area overlooking the pool. LB, G and I sat in the patio area that was a perfect spot to check out the sunset, however the lights were broken therefore it got dark real fast and we were left to dine in the dark. Towards the end of the night, we were having difficulty seeing what was on the plates.

The online menu was up to date with the one at the restaurant. I like that because you know that whatever you plan on ordering will be available. The menu included the typical bistro fare; cheese, charcuterie, appetizers with many salad choices, and entrees. Reading up on Yelp, CH and various blogs, most raved about the foie and liver parfait, the duck and the steak frites. Salads and appetizers are priced in the mid teens, entrees are around $20-26. The bottom of the menu lists items that are in season and some that are soon to come. Figs, plums, avocados, beets are currently in season. You'll notice most of these ingredients on the menu accordingly.

We decided to start with cocktails since the menu looked interesting. The cocktails boast of fresh and home made ingredients, and lots of fruits and spices. All cocktails are priced at $12.

Blood orange and beet margarita. It was made with beet juice, orange puree, agave nectar and Tequila. The drink was strong. Good but not as yummy as I had hoped. Blood orange juice is typically citrus and refreshing. Unfortunately you could not experience this in the cocktail.

LB and G ordered the Bubble & Squeak- Muddled cucumber, fresh watermelon juice, tequila and pink salt.

Bread served with arugula butter. The petite bread was fresh and warm, and served individually in a brown paper bag. The butter was vibrant green and very unique.

We started with an amuse bouche of pear with mascarpone cheese and lemon caviar. What a delectable little bite. We decided on three appetizers and an entree to share between the three of us. Lately I have been leaning towards ordering little starters in lieu of an entree. This gives you the opportunity to sample more dishes.

First up, Curly Endive salad, poached egg and pig ears. The pig ears were sliced thing and fried crispy. It tasted no different from slivers of fried pork; G didn't even know that they was pig ears. The salad is dressed in cider vinaigrette which was light and a good compliment to the fried pig ears and the rich runny yolk. On the plate was also a brioche and jicama. This was excellent and not your typical boring salad.

Foie gras and chicken liver parfait with fig compote. Oh so delicious. The bread was toasted and buttery. The liver parfait was smooth and rich.

The third starter was the Braised tongue with tomatillo sauce and radish. Another good dish. The tongue was tender and the sauce was a little spicy with a nice hit of citrus. There looked like two cuts of tongue; oblong-shaped and thinly sliced. This dish has amazing flavors and was what you would imagine Mexican street food to be like.

After we had devoured our appetizers, we ordered another round of drinks.

The Signature FIG mojito with home-made fig preserve, mint, rum and lime juice.

A glass of Cava, and the Blueberry and thyme cocktail. The latter was made with blueberries, lemon thyme, vodka, elderflower and chartreuse.

Once again, the two cocktails sounded great in concept, but were not head turning.

We shared the duck magret entree which was served with mission figs, arugula and walnuts. There were a few missteps with this entree. I liked the way the duck was cooked; it was seared with a little caramelized skin, however the meat was not seasoned well. G felt that the duck was a little too rare for her taste. In addition, the greens were horrible. Just imagine taking a mouth full of garnishes; dill, parsley, basil. They not dressed well and I felt they did not go well with the duck.

This dish was so disappointing. When you think of duck, you usually feel a sense of satisfaction after eating it. You walk away thinking, OMG that was so delicious, rich and I am in my happy place right now. Unfortunately, this dish did not evoke those thoughts. Instead, it looked like an ahi tuna salad, prepared for someone on a diet. I did not taste that decadence or that richness that comes from a great duck entree.

This left me a little discontented. After such great starters, we would hate to end the meal on a blah note. Hopefully dessert could save the day. The strawberry shortcake came recommended.

Shortcake with greek yogurt and ice cream. The pastry was rather dry, but I liked the light fluffy yogurt.

Fig newton. I suppose it was fresh but it really didn't taste unique. I really still tasted like the Nabisco type. No kidding. Also, the piece of fig on the plate was not sweet. I did like the chocolate piece on the plate which tasted airy, like ice cream cone. I felt a little cheated by this dessert as I didn't think it was much better than the packaged good. I was hoping that it would be a creative interpretation of a fig newton. Instead, it was exactly like a fig newton, served with ice cream.

The service was swift; they cleared our glasses and plates promptly. The hostess was friendly, even when I was on the phone with her.

However, service does not a restaurant make. I have heard great things about the food at Fig, but I left the restaurant a little unsatisfied. If we had ordered a good entree, I think we would have walked away elated. Overall, I thought that the appetizers were good, but the entree fell short. Additionally, the cocktails were not memorable. The concept was good, the ingredients were fresh but they did not combine well into a great drink. Unfortunately, I think I walked in with very high expectations, and even though there were many high points of the night, ultimately the duck entree and the ordinary fig newton dessert were letdowns. A pleasant surprise was the complimentary parking, which is unheard off in LA, let alone at a hotel.

Hits: salad, tongue, foie parfait, strawberry shortcake, free parking
Misses: fig newton, duck was not exceptional, dining in the dark
Rate: **

FIG Restaurant
101 Wilshire Blvd.,
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 319-3111

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