Fig & Olive

Every time New York City's Restaurant Week rolls around, Alex and I try to visit at least one place (e.g. Le Cirque last summer and Smith & Wollensky earlier this year).  I've previously expressed a whole lotta love for Restaurant Week, but my thoughts have changed a bit as I've realized $90 on a meal for two people is kind of steep and in our chronicles of foodventures, we have had so many great meals for far less.  Still, it's a good excuse for us to dress up pretty for a night out!

I've been wanting to dine at Fig & Olive for a while and tonight I finally got my wish.  It was a nice dinner, but there was room for improvement.  Fig & Olive, as you might gather from the eponymous foodstuffs, focuses on Mediterranean cuisines, a sort of hodgepodge of Greek-Turkish-Italian-Moroccan-style foods.  The decor in the restaurant is a modern take on natural earthy elements and is pretty inviting.  Sadly, once the dinner rush picked up, the dining area was really noisy with loud chatter and conversation from our neighbors.

I had salmon crudo and truffle risotto.  Alex had the fig, gorgonzola, and manchego cheese salad and fig and chicken tagine.  We shared the two dessert options of chocolate pot de creme and strawberry crostini.  A waiter unceremoniously plunked down a small plate of rosemary bread with a trio of olive oils...and it took us a long time and a poorly-enunciated explanation to realize that the olive oils were all different flavors.  Pity, because I would have relished in dipping the fluffy rosemary bread chunks in each sequentially to compare the lingering flavors and mouthfeel.  They were tasty, though, and Alex noted that one of them had a spicy, peppery flavor.

My salmon crudo was a beautifully plated slab of orange-pink salmon on a puddle of olive oil and citrus juice, topped with chopped citrus fruits, sliced scallion, and dill.  The salmon was soft without being too mushy and chewy, though the salmon's own delicate flavor did not shine past the heavier, more powerful flavors of the olive oil, citrus, and scallion.  It was actually a very tasty appetizer.  Alex's salad was...a pretty simple salad, topped with two slivers of cheese (presumably the gorgonzola and manchego) and halves of figs.

The truffle risotto (risotto with an assortment of mushrooms and truffle oil) was a little disappointing.  I got a big bowl that looked like really dark, watery congee topped with shaved cheese.  To their credit, the smell wafting from the risotto had me swooning: earthy, slightly sour/funky aroma of mushrooms.  I've never smelled mushrooms so strongly in my life and it was mouthwatering for a fungus fan like me.  However, probably since I was spoiled by other risotto experiences, the texture of this risotto was totally odd.  It wasn't thick or creamy, as the starchy arborio rice is supposed to magically become.  I needed a soup spoon basically to pick up the grains of rice, whereas a proper risotto is thick enough to be eaten with a fork.  If this dish had any saving grace, though, the flavor was truly mushroom-y and the portion was just enough.  I ended up using rosemary bread to sop up the residual mushroom/truffle broth.

The chicken tagine was another interesting presentation: Alex got a separate ramekin of couscous and a trio of toppings (a minty pesto, toasted almond slivers, and a chili oil) along with a bowl of chicken and vegetables cooked in a broth.  The broth was reminiscent of a curry, but again watery like my risotto.  I think the dish would be more successful if it were more stew-like.  The vegetables were quite fresh and took on an interesting layer of flavor with the spices in the broth.  The chicken was not very remarkable.

Finally, dessert!  Sidebar: I guess in the interest of diner turnover rate, they pushed our dishes out reeeally fast and we got to dessert in under an hour, weirdly.  The chocolate pot de creme came in a vessel like the tea cups you get at dim sum. A barely-sweet chocolate pudding was covered by a barely-sweet vanilla whipped cream.  A praline cookie sat on the side. Honestly, the cookie was better than the pudding, which is really disappointing because I'd heard rave reviews about this pot de creme....  I actually preferred the strawberry crostini dessert, which was sliced strawberries and a sweet cream atop a shortbread cookie and drizzled with a sweet balsamic glaze.  The crostini were heavenly!  Not too sweet, but still retaining good strawberry flavor and an interesting ever-so-slight tangy comparison against the balsamic.

Verdict?  I think I unfortunately set up such high expectations in my head that were unmet.  I would still recommend Restaurant Week to try some restaurants/cuisines that are departures from your norm, but expect to get what you pay for.