The Fairmont Miramar’s new ultra-seasonal eatery:
PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES
Fig is an exceedingly principled place, an organic-minded restaurant that bows before the open-air temple that is the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Although the market guides nearly all of the serious kitchens on the Westside, Fig is a particularly dedicated disciple – the restaurant even goes so far as to designate an official “forager” who’s charged with sourcing only the most pristine produce. Because of that farm-to-table adherence, Fig has sowed a garden-defined identity that at other restaurants can place origin over taste. But Ray Garcia’s food is distinct enough to slough off that stereotype – Fig does simple California cuisine at its freshest.
The restaurant is housed within Santa Monica’s Fairmont Miramar Hotel, a compound of breezy bungalows and suites, some of which overlook the ocean – as well as a century-old fig tree for which the restaurant is named. Fig itself is designed like a poolside sun room; beyond the collection of sunburst-style mirrors is a wall of French doors that in a few months should be swung open for full, seaside effect. Even the restaurant’s smaller details carry on that California dreaming: marble-topped tables, napkins like terry cloth towels, menus that mimic corkboards and cross-sectioned wood blocks.
Opening bites at Fig are curiously split into two separate sections: snacks and starters. Aside from size, there isn’t much difference between the two, a fact that makes them seem segregated for little reason. Still, both have admirable options. The grilled mortadella, for example, offers a few well-balanced bites as the bologna-like meat is tossed together with crispy spears of Pink Lady apples and dime-sized slices of radish so thin they’re nearly clear. More substantial, though, is the chicken liver parfait with fig marmalade and the roasted tomato soup with mascarpone and basil.
You can compose a meal entirely out of those small plates (preserved slices of charcuterie and cheese flights included), but Fig is better experienced with its entrees. A surprising highlight is the restaurant’s well-constructed steak frites, which come in three different cuts and preparations: awash in blue cheese butter, bathed in peppercorn-cognac sauce or simply roasted.
Seafood is also suitably represented. Scallops arrive with chorizo and butter beans; sablefish ships out with a near-balsamic glaze. The whole trout best represents Fig’s simplicity, however, as the fish (which is deboned for easy eating) is laid out on a bed of baby savoy cabbage and flavored with a lemony sauce that, at least on your first forkful, rushes out of the trout like herbed butter from a well-formed chicken Kiev.
Muscovy duck, matched with a couple sprigs of frisée and some sparkling citrus wedges carved out with jewel-like precision, is a great red meat plate. Fig’s roasted Jidori chicken, paired with an arugula-heavy panzanella, is good if a little plain.
Sides – known here as accompaniments – are ordered à la carte and are often the most obvious embodiments of the restaurant’s farmers market philosophy. Driven as they are by the market, the sides are vegetable-centric, framed around simple and delicious servings of cauliflower with hazelnuts, sage and a touch of romesco and a pepita-powered sunchoke puree.
Desserts trend toward converted classics: a cashew butter and strawberry jelly sandwich, a caramelized banana split with rum-banana ice cream and pistachio brittle, a simple plate of warm cookies. But even more fitting are the house-made fig bars – cakey, just-baked blocks that all but define Fig’s no-fuss focus.
Fig, 101 Wilshire Blvd. (inside the Fairmont Miramar Hotel), Santa Monica, (310) 319-3111. Open Tue.-Sat., 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Food for two: $50-100. Full bar. figsantamonica.com.