FIG Restaurant has been serving up California Cuisine inside the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica for years. But some changes have taken place and now there is the NEW FIG Restaurant.
The space is still the same and the covered patio is flush with natural light. The decor now has a warmer feel to it with hanging plants adding life to the space. And there is a wood burning oven that has been added that you can see when you first walk into the restaurant.
At the helm of the new FIG Restaurant is the personable Chef Yousef Ghalaini. A native of Lebanon, Chef Ghalaini grew up in his grandfather’s bakery where he first learned the art of the wood-burning oven. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley and worked in Napa, Florida, Connecticut and New York before coming to FIG Restaurant at The Fairmont Miramar. At FIG Restaurant, Chef Ghalaini works with local farmers and fresh California ingredients to create his Mediterranean inspired menu that integrates the warm spices and legumes of Lebanese cuisine.
Starting with wine, I was impressed by the wine by the glass options. There is nothing cliche offered. Instead there are interesting international wines, such as melon de bourgogne, gruner veltliner, riesling, sauvignon blanc from both Sancerre and Napa and chardonnay from Burgundy and Santa Maria Valley.
The cocktails are seasonal, although classic drinks are available as well, and for the summer, strawberry played a big role in the drinks with a strawberry basil spritz (Tito’s vodka, Aperol, strawberry and Prosecco) and strawberry kiwi daiquiri (kiwi-infused Matusalem rum, lime and strawberry).
Every meal should start with the Bread Balloon which comes with zaatar, EVOO and sea salt. This large puff of dough, which is the same used for the pizza, is made in the wood-oven. It comes out like a big balloon but quickly deflates as you start tearing into it.
To go along with the bread balloon, there are a selection of side dips that can be ordered. We enjoyed the Hummus with EVOO and Aleppo chili, Eggplant Salad with tomatoes, Maui onions and chickpeas and Warm Curried Lentils with sherry vinaigrette and cilantro.
The Tomato and Radish Salad with mint, French feta and Zinfandel vinaigrette is a play on a Greek salad and is fresh and flavorful.
The salad with local stone fruit, watercress and pine nuts is topped with grilled Halloumi and the saltiness of the cheese with the sweetness of the fruit is in perfect harmony.
The aji amarillo adds a bit of heat to the Albacore Tuna Crudo with a fennel rub.
The charred octopus comes with butter beans, pickled onions and fresno chilies and offers a fun play of spice with the sweet and sour of the onions.
The wood smoke Manilla clams with fresh thyme and pepper relish come in a spicy broth that was just a bit too much for me. Of course, a glass of riesling, with a little residual sugar, helped!
The pizza with Black Mission figs, Redding raw milk cheese and wildflower honey could have been for dessert. Straight from the wood-oven, the stracciatella cheese melts in the mouth and is rich in flavor but that richness is cut by the light sweetness of the honey.
For the larger plates, the coffee rubbed prime NY strip has rich earthy notes and it is served with zhughn and duck fat potatoes. Anytime I see potatoes cooked in duck fat, I am hooked!
The spicy fries with harissa powder and toum are exactly that – spicy!
For dessert, we were tempted by two choices and selected the summer-appropriate wood roasted strawberries with ZenBunni rose petal chocolate, brown sugar streusel and cheesecake ice cream.
The peanut butter bar with cashew cracker jack caramel and chocolate glace is like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup meets a Butterfinger travelling in First Class.
Head to Santa Monica to check out the NEW FIG Restaurant at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows. This restaurant is nothing like a typical hotel restaurant. And the best secret of all? Head there any day at 5pm for “FIG at 5” where ALL items are 50% off!
FIG Santa Monica
Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows
101 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401