So here’s the thing:
I’m a bit of a creature of habit. I know what I like, and I don’t like anybody messing with it. I’m the type of loon that buys ten of the same tank top in different colors. (It’s a nice tank top, ok?) I get anxiety at just the thought of change, and I plan everything meticulously so I know exactly what to expect. I make a lot of lists, and then revisions of those lists. I also may need medication.
So new restaurants give me a fair amount of apprehension: what if it isn’t great? What if the people I drag there with me don’t like it? What if they put shiitake mushrooms in my husband’s lasagna and he dies? Or– worse– what if we leave godforbid hungry?
But part of my job (that I still don’t get paid for) is to report to you on the new restaurants springing up across this planet, and report and sacrifice I will. For the good of mankind and foodies everywhere.
Sometimes this great and sacrificial risk pays off, however, and I end up finding a new favorite. Which is kind of almost what happened with Fig & Olive, a swanky new restaurant in the heart of West Hollywood. Fig & Olive isn’t exactly new, since there are already four successful locations in NYC, but its newest outpost on Melrose Place (that street really exists, people!) is appropriately fresh and glamified, perfect for the beautiful people of Los Angeles to bump beautiful elbows.
It’s big- 8,000 square feet to be exact– with towering ceilings and a 50-f00t bar, a gorgeous waitstaff, ivory banquets mounded with pillows, walls adorned with bottles of olive oil and wine, rosemary plants permeating the air, and seductive lighting. Kind of like if Ina Garten and Carrie Bradshaw decided to design a restaurant together. It’s luxe, it’s hip, and it’s very, very cool.
Maybe a little too cool. We arrived on time for our reservation and approached a flock of hosts and hostesses wearing headsets like bouncers at a nightclub, all pouring over a seating chart trying to figure out where to put everybody. And fair enough– the place was slammed, especially for a Wednesday night. After a rather strange conversation with one of the hostesses (“We have a reservation under Staite for 8 o’clock, please.” “Oh! Okay! Greenburg?”), we were asked to wait at the bar while our table was set up. And wait we did– for half an hour. Once a table became available in the lounge area, which was first come-first serve, we decided to snap it up and just get on with it already.
Our adorable and lovely server suggested a few things from the rather extensive menu, so on her suggestion we started with some crostini and scallops to share, and I chose an Albarino to drink, a classic and crisp white wine from Spain I happen to drink like it’s going out of style. The crostini were great– tender and perfectly cooked shrimp with avocado, cilantro and tomato, mushroom with truffled artichoke and parmesan, and prosciutto with ricotta and fresh figs. The scallops were equally delicious, seared beautifully on the outside and sweet and tender on the inside, served with more of that truffled artichoke and drizzled with a decadent helping of aged balsamic vinegar and white truffle olive oil. (New drinking game: how many times can I say the words olive and oil in one blog?? Start your engines!) Bonus points for the complimentary olive oil– drink!– bread and tasting of three olive oils– drink!– for the table, because what’s better in life than bread and olive oil–omg drink–?
Next up were our main courses. Matt went with the New York strip steak which was deliciously charred and beautifully medium-rare, served with potatoes mashed in olive oil (keep it up), haricot vert, and another drizzle of olive oil, just for good measure. I gotta tell ya– this steak was pretty darn perfect, and I was beginning to forget about that half an hour wait at the start of this affair. My lovely and talented friend Celina (you’ll meet her soon) and I shared a lovely plate of penne with grilled mushrooms, parmesan and olive oil, as well as a gorgeous roasted branzino, glazed with a fig balsamic vinegar and served with even more figs on the side. Fish and figs are madness, you say? You stand corrected! I don’t know if it was the balsamic vinegar tying everything together, but it was special and fantastic and interesting and clever… which means me and that dish have a lot in common. Olive oil!
The only miss in this series of hits was a spaghetti mediterraneo, a bland bowl of noodles and shrimp dressed with a bit of garlic and cilantro that just didn’t belong on a menu full of such powerhouse ingredients and flavors. But then our server brought us out another plate of those delectable scallops on the house, “just ’cause you guys are awesome!”, and that spaghetti was forgotten about faster than you can say olive oil.
We ended the meal with the tropezienne, a ridiculously gorgeous brioche sandwich filled with mascarpone cheese and served with a side of strawberries glazed with a meyer lemon syrup. Yes, this was as good as it sounds. Even without the olive oil. (It’s just fun for me now.)
In all, it was a pretty great evening… even when our server chased us down the street waving our bill in the air because she didn’t count the money we left her properly and thought we’d shafted her. Adorable! This place does have a few kinks to work out, as most new restaurants do, but it sure is pretty. And let’s be honest: nobody likes the pretty girl who’s completely perfect on the inside too, anyway. It’s annoying. So the next time the mood strikes us to get all dolled up and mingle with West Hollywood’s in-crowd, will we be back? You bet your brioche we will.