“Fresh. Simple. Unassuming. Sustainable.” All are words that Chef Ray Garcia uses to describe the menu at FIG, a seasonal bistro on Second Street between Wilshire and California.
FIG’s dishes incorporate up to 90 percent locally and organically grown ingredients acquired directly from farmers and purveyors.
“Using organic and local product is a big part of what we do at FIG and it’s very important to me for many reasons,” Chef Garcia said. “As a chef, it generally just tastes better.”
At least twice a week, Chef Garcia and his sous chefs comb the Santa Monica Farmers Market looking for the best available produce.
“I’m blessed to be two blocks away from what I feel is the best farmers market in the world, right down the road on Second Street,” he said. “We go down there every Wednesday for our main order for the week and supplement it on Saturdays. Every now and then we’ll need to pick up some ingredients from the other markets throughout Santa Monica, Venice, Culver City, and Malibu.”
FIG is named after the 128-year-old Moreton Bay Fig tree that sits in front of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, which houses the restaurant.
Its menu includes ingredient-inspired twists on traditional Bistro fare.
The Young Beets with Santa Barbara Pistachios speaks to the idea of less is more as it deviates from most traditional beet salads. Locally grown beets are the showcase, which are roasted then drizzled with salt, pepper, and olive oil, then served with pistachios from Santa Barbara.
The Red Beet Risotto is one of the most popular menu items that’s been served for the most part since the restaurant opened on Feb. 3, 2009.
Most people who associate risotto as a heavy dish will be surprised of its lightness with only marginal amounts of butter and Parmesan cheese in the recipe.
The dish’s vibrant color comes from the beets that are first boiled, then blended, which gives the risotto a smooth dark red/purple color that comes from the puree.
The vibrant colors continue on the menu with the Curly Endive Salad that features purple curly mustard greens from McGrath Family Farms as well as sylvetta arugula and French breakfast radish from Grant Brians at Heirloom Organics in Hollister.
Potatoes from Weiser Family Farms in Tehachapi are used for the restaurant’s lemon-scented fingerlings, frites, and brandade. Japanese tomatoes grown at Beylik Farms in Fillmore provide the base for the roasted tomato soup.
Additionally, a variety of herbs featured in the dishes are taken directly from a FIG-designated garden.
Chef Garcia said locally grown and organic food always created a wow factor for guests.
“We put ingredients on a plate that are familiar to everybody, whether it be an apple, an orange, a pear, or grapes, but it’s just the care that’s taken in gathering it before it even gets to my door,” he said. “With the local organic farmers ingredients, it really sets ourselves apart and people are surprised when they are blown away by something as simple as an apple. Because I think a lot of people have lost touch with how good produce can and should be.”
In line with its focus on sustainability, FIG acquires all meat, poultry, and fish from farms, ranches, and fisheries embracing responsible practices, and all mussels, clams, and oysters are aqua-farmed in Carlsbad, California.
With Thanksgiving on Nov. 24, FIG will be adding a twist to tradition.
Chef Garcia has created a menu that foregoes tradition and offers “leftovers” first.
From 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, guests can choose from “leftover” creations that integrate classic favorites.
FIG will be offering an a la carte menu with four culinary categories, which are cranberry and stuffing, potatoes, vegetables, and turkey.
Ranging from $8 to $26, items like prosciutto and turkey croquettes, quinoa stuffing, and Okinawa sweet potatoes pay homage to leftover Thanksgiving dishes.
“FIG always likes to add a fun spin to tradition,” Chef Garcia said. “Every Thanksgiving we’re left with delicious food that we don’t want to waste. By sharing my “leftover” dish ideas, I hope to inspire others.”
If you can’t imagine skipping your customary Thanksgiving, not to worry, FIG will be offering a traditional Thanksgiving menu as well.
FIG Restaurant Santa Monica
101 Wilshire Boulevard
Breakfast: Daily 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Lunch: Mon-Sat 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sunday Brunch: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Dinner: Tues-Sat 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.