Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of accepting an invitation to "An Evening in France" for the grand opening of the Fig & Olive at Fashion Island, Newport Beach. I'd been to the Melrose Place location before while living in LA. So, when I heard the news that it was traveling down the 405, all I could think was "this is just the type of svelte, sophisticated dining scene Orange County needs."
The Fig & Olive restaurant group hails from New York City with roots in the South of France, where owner & founder, Laurent Halasz, grew up in the Mougins region. During the opening, I bumped into Corporate Chef, Simon Sunwood, at the pass. He said the Newport location is one of the most impressive spaces because of its grandeur and individual rooms. There's 12,000 sq. ft. of French Riviera fabulousness with a natural limestone fireplace patio, dining room with olive trees, main lounge with white stucco walls, and a Crostini Bar. (To add to the chi chi, the night opened with a red carpet step 'n repeat and a Riviera magazine model show.)
I asked Simon about his favorite dish on our tasting menu. He said definitely the Zucchini Carpaccio with Lemon, Pine Nut, Parmesan & Picholine Olive Oil. It's Executive Chef Pascale Lorange's creation. Originally born in Belgium with training in France & Spain, Pascale brings clean flavors of the Mediterranean & simple fresh ingredients to the table. (He's also a good sport too, graciously posing for me in the kitchen, even in the heat of service.)
While we tasted over 15 dishes that night, here's a list of the best bites that even the classiest of guests were impatiently grabbing hot off the pass.
- the best of the crudo's because of its hint of citrus yet still understated, Salmon Crudo with Orange, Grapefruit, Dill, Lemon, Scallion & Chateau Leoube Olive Oil $14
- perfectly juicy with a sauce that thankfully wouldn't quit, Chicken Skewer with Grilled Zucchini, Roasted Tomato & Aioli $Special
- creamy, woodsy, wondrously al dente, Truffle Risotto with Arborio Rice, Cremini & Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Scallions, Parmesan, Parsley & White Truffle Olive Oil $26
- amazeballs, 'nuf said, Truffle Mushroom Croquette with Cremini Mushroom, Parmesan, Bechamel & Truffle Olive Oil Aioli $14
- salty 'n sweet with a thick slice of cheese, Manchego, Fig & Marcona Almond Crostini $12 for 3/$21 for 6
- a beautiful marriage of sweet 'n creamy, so simple yet so divine, Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onion & Chive Crostini $12 for 3/$21 for 6
- drunken amaretto crunch that actually made me love something besides chocolate, Dessert Crostini with Amareno Cherries, Mascarpone, Micro Basil & Pistachio Shortbread $8
I hope you enjoyed my belated Christmas present to you, a review of Fig & Olive's grand opening.
Cheers to good food, good wine, good health, and good times, which can all be found here, and of course, in the New Year.
151 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660. 949-877-3005.