Restaurant week is always a great time to try out new places, but it also allows me to revisit favorites or restaurants worth trying again with new menus. Fig and Olive didn't really impress me at first, but the more I came back, the more I started to fall for its charm. I arrived Monday evening with what I thought was a reservation at 7:30, but I had mistakenly reserved it for Sunday. Total fail on my part, but the wait time was a short 15 minutes. In the meantime, my brother and I took to the bar.
My brother got the Summer in Provence, which has berry accents with a heavy undertone of gin. I decided to go forth with a Bourbon Old Fashioned. It was surprisingly sweet, not its usual bitterness, which made me sad and disappointed.
Once our table was ready, we got seated at a corner table, which would have been prime seating for a date if I wasn't dining with my brother. Lol! It actually ended being a cool spot for scenic viewing since you see a bit of everything - the kitchen, the high-ceiling space and everyone in the whole restaurant.
Since we had peeped the menu in advance, ordering was a breeze. We fired off our courses and was told that we should be getting bread & olive oil. Well, it never came, but it probably would have spoiled our appetite anyway, so they're forgiven.
~ First Course ~
Beef Tartar. Marinated hand-cut, grass-fed filet mignon mixed with capers and shallots. Served with Manzanilla Olive Oil crackers and a parsley Dijon olive oil emulsion. The beef was tender and goes great with all the accompaniments combined.
Octopus a la Gallega. Thinly sliced braised octopus, marinated bell peppers, heirloom potato, black olive, arugula, and pimentos lemon dressing with Cobrancosa olive oil. This was a stunning dish and it was so beautifully presented!
Paella del Mar. Black tiger shrimp, sea scallop, calamari, mussels, saffron rice with chicken, green peas, red bell pepper, artichokes, saffron aioli, pimentos and oregano made with Hojiblanca olive oil. The first time I had this, it was salty and the mussels still had their beards. This one was much better, but the consistency was more of a risotto than a paella.
Mediterranean Branzino. Glazed with fig and 18 yr old balsamic vinegar, the white fish was paired with snow peas, fresh figs, and an olive oil mashed potato made with Koroneiki olive oil. The fish was moist and buttery. I thought the figs didn't pair up as well because they weren't very sweet or flavorful as I had hoped. They sort of just stood on their own instead of complementing the plate. Regardless, I still licked that plate clean. Perfect portion!
Dessert "Crostini" was to die for, but a little on the sweet side for me. Pistachio shortbread cookies topped with marscapone cream, chopped pistachios, Amarena cherries (3 per crostini) and micro basil. The Amarena cherry is a small, bitter, dark colored Italian cherry that's usually bottled in syrup and used as decoration on desserts. Because it's bottled in syrup, it was another sweet element added on top. Basil sounds like it would be weird, but it helped add a dynamic element to each bite. I pretty much grabbed every garnish off the plate to cut back on sweetness.
Chocolate pot de creme topped with a fluffy vanilla cream and served with crunchy praline financiers. Rich and creamy, the pot de creme looks small, but portioned just right.
I far prefer weekdays over weekend crowds, but it's because I like to talk with my dinner guests instead of yell over the noise.
Fig and Olive
Located at Fashion Island
151 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660