Fig & Olive—a Visit to the French Riviera via Newport Beach
Situated in the outer circle of the trendy Fashion Island in Newport Beach, this outpost is one of eight locations of the restaurant chain founded by Laurent Halasz with venues in NYC, Chicago, D.C. and Southern California. The massive 12,000 square-foot space accommodates 330 guests and you may feel transported to the French Riviera with décor including live olive trees and rosemary, gardens and both indoor and outdoor seating options. Four dining areas include the main indoor dining area Orchard Room, highlighted by a high ceiling with wood beams, display of 100s of olive oil bottles above the open kitchen, banquettes with myriad of comfortable pillows and brightened by white stucco walls and several windows allowing for natural light; White Room bedecked in all white linen and white chairs where DJs spin on weekends; Wine Room containing four wine cellars; and the open and airy Cocktail Lounge with living room seating that spills out onto a patio with fire pit, rattan chairs, dining tables and more sofas and retractable roof.
The northwestern Mediterranean menu of Italian, Spanish and French cuisine varies only slightly from lunch to dinner. The restaurant stays true to its name, and uses a large variety of extra virgin olive oils as the core ingredient and in place of butter. Your meal is off to a unique and enticing beginning with a tasting of three olive oils: Arbequina from Spain—sweet, buttery, apple flavors; Cobrancosa from Portugal—creamy, green apple and almond; and Koroneiki from California—green fruit and herbaceous. Follow it up with a Crostini tasting, a varied selection of 11 delectable combinations that you can select in groups of 3 or 6. We went with Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onion and Chive; Manchego, Fig, Marcona and Almond; and Prosciutto, Ricotta, Fig, Olive and Walnut. All were stellar choices and a wonderful mix of flavors and textures.
Appetizers worth exploring are the Heirloom Tomato enlivened with jumbo lump crab, an avocado basil tapenade and basil-infused olive oil; and Sea Scallops seasoned with l’orange spice, carrot olive oil tapenade and Picual Olive Oil.
On the pasta menu, the Fig & Gorgonzola Risotto is a very rich mix of Arborio rice, gorgonzola, fig, mascarpone, Parmesan and fig balsamic glaze.
Fish selections are highlighted by Mediterranean Branzino glazed with fig and an 18-year-old balsamic vinegar and tender melt-in-your-mouth Chilean Sea Bass dinner menu only marinated with lemon thyme and served with celery root puree, roasted potato and a harissa olive oil emulsion.
The poultry and meat menu features a very moist Provence Roasted Chicken composed of Mary’s Farm Free Range chicken marinated with Herbs de Provence that arrives in a cast-iron skillet with fingerling potatoes and ratatouille; and Rosemary Lamb Chops with goat cheese & chive gnocchi, braised eggplant and rosemary garlic olive oil.
Hopefully you’ll still have room for some sweet finishes. We liked the Dessert Crostini—shortbread topped with strawberries, mascarpone, balsamic and micro basil; and Warm Chocolate Soufflé with candied orange and Häagen Das vanilla ice cream.
More than 80 bottles of wine and 30 wines by the glass are offered, with the majority of the varietals hailing from France, Italy, Spain and California, including the 2012 Terroir Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon—a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Malbec—which I found to be a perfect companion to my meal.
The Fig and Olive staff is complemented by Stephanie Kieu, a nutrition major who has been at the restaurant since its opening in December 2013. Stephanie’s family is from France, where she lived from the ages of 2 to 5 and grew up with an appreciation for great food. She says, “I am very passionate about food and love the food here; it’s phenomenal and the staff, management and cooks all get along and work together well.”
Fig & Olive
401 Newport Center Dr. Pacific Coast Hwy. & Newport Center Dr.Newport Beach, CA
Monday-Friday noon to 3:45 p.m.
Sun. to Tue. 4 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
Wed. 4 p.m.-10 p.m.
Thu. 4 p.m.-10:30 p.m.
Fri. & Sat. 4 p.m.-12 a.m.
Sat. & Sun.11:30 a.m.-3:45 p.m.