The Fig & Olive dining room, viewed from the Champagne Bar & Lounge.

On Saturday night, March 5th, Los Angeles officially became the first West Coast location for Fig & Olive, the New York-based temples of olive oil that feature the flavors of the French Riviera and coastal regions of the Mediterranean. In April 2005, Laurent Halasz opened the first Fig & Olive on Lexington Ave. and 62nd Street, which led to its flagship Meatpacking District location in 2006, and then its Fifth Avenue and Westchester locations. Executive Chef Pascal Lorange oversees menus that highlight Fig & Olive’s “core ingredient of olive oil,” which Halasz says is used “in place of butter in our dishes — ranging from a sweet and delicate olive oil from the French Riviera that pairs well with a Steamed Lemon Sole Papillote, to a green-fruit Provence olive oil that we serve with a Green Apple Sorbet.”

To celebrate its launch, Fig & Olive Melrose Place threw an opening party so big it took place over three consecutive themed nights: An Evening in Italy, An Evening in Spain and An Evening in the South of France. At An Evening in Spain, guests walked the red carpet off Melrose Place and into the massive space on La Cienega that formerly housed Republic. Once inside Fig & Olive, guests are greeted by the two-section, 50-foot white marble bar and communal table running the length of the west side of the restaurant. Located just past a retail wall of 30-plus olive oils, the bar and communal table will accommodate walk-ins and serve olive oil tastings, small plates, and 30 different wines by the glass.

Summer in Barcelona

Giovanni Martinez (Les Deux Estate) is consulting on the cocktail menu for Fig & Olive, and once Melrose Place is up and running he’ll train the F&O crews in New York on his drinks. Three cocktails from the opening menu were served at the event. I began with the Summer in Barcelona: 10 Cane Rum, house made rosemary thyme syrup, muddled blackberries, fresh lime juice. On the regular F&O cocktail menu, Old Tom Gin replaces the rum and the drink is called the Summer in Provence. The Summer in Barcelona was bright, balanced and aromatic; a cocktail well-suited to the Mediterranean-inspired setting.

The two other cocktails served were the Fig & Olive Dirty Martini (Belvedere Vodka, house made Verdial Thyme olives and brine) and the Sangria Roja (freshly muddled berries, cloves, vanilla, orange peel with a splash of Cognac). Going forward, F&O guests can order Dirty Martinis with a choice of three olive varieties and brines (Black Niçoise, Green Verdial, and Purple Sweet Arbequina). With my Summer in Barcelona in hand, I joined Martinez as he walked me through the sprawling, 8,000 square foot venue, which has a capacity of 300 guests.

In the double height main dining room, a backlit wall of olive oil bottles frames the open kitchen, while wrought iron fig sconces splash candlelight across another wall. The dining tables had been cleared to open up the floor, which rapidly filled with fashionably-attired guests. The centerpiece of the room is an olive tree, surrounded by sectional seating and rosemary plants. Martinez said that during the day, the space is flooded with natural light from the 20-foot windows that span the south side of the restaurant. The dining room leads to an enclosed garden terrace, which was closed off to party guests. Like the main room, a skylight fills the terrace with natural light.

Upstairs is the Champagne Bar & Lounge, an exclusive space where guests can look down at the main dining room while sipping F&O cocktails or a selection of champagnes. DJs, candles, and wrought-iron olive branches add to the atmosphere of the intimate lounge, which will be active Thursdays to Saturdays. Still to come is an outdoor terrace on Melrose Place, where guests will be able to enjoy Fig & Olive’s offerings under the shade of olive trees and rosemary plants.

La Conquista

As the event continued, Martinez was kind enough to serve a couple of sneak previews from the full cocktail menu:

  • La Conquista – Atlantico Rum, house made lemon and clove syrup, fig balsamic vinegar, garnished with vanilla foam. Dangerously good tall drink.
  • Pompelmino – Aperol, Cocchi Americano, fresh lemon juice. The sample was served in a taster glass, but normally it’s served up and topped with grapefruit foam. I’d enjoy it as an amuse bouche as well; the taster made for a wonderful aperitif, with bitter and herbaceous notes rounded off by citrus and lemon.

Other cocktails on the Fig & Olive menu, which features a mix of signatures and classics:

  • Piscine – sparkling wine served on ice with fresh strawberries.
  • Piscine Imperial – Moët Ice Imperial Champagne, served on ice with or without berries.
  • The Matador – Zapopan Blanco Tequila, Sagatiba Cachaça, house made cilantro syrup, fresh lime juice, muddled jalapeño.
  • 10 Cane Raspberry Mojito “Fig & Olive Style” – 10 Cane Rum, raspberries, fresh mint leaves, fresh lime juice, club soda.
  • Negroni – Beefeater Gin, Campari, Carpano Antica, garnished with orange twist.
  • French 75 – Martin Miller’s Gin, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, topped with house champagne.
  • The Scofflaw – Whiskey, Dolin Dry Vermouth, fresh lemon juice, house made grenadine.

With Fig & Olive’s sound system in full effect and a capacity crowd in attendance, it felt more like a Late Night in Ibiza than an Evening in Spain. The cocktails were top notch, but the passed trays of food were uneven and not representative of Fig & Olive’s full menu. The striped bass with fingerling potatoes was fine, while the crostinis varied from enjoyable to overloaded and soggy. With the dining tables removed and the regular dinner menu unavailable, assessing Fig & Olive as an actual restaurant will have to take place during future visits.

That said, Fig & Olive is a handsomely designed venue, and service throughout the event was friendly and attentive. With so many spaces to explore, from the casual tasting bar to the elegant dining room and the Champagne Bar & Lounge, Fig & Olive will appeal to a wide spectrum of L.A. diners. Halasz certainly seems to think so; the final opening party had yet to take place, and Eater LA reported that Fig & Olive would be opening a location in Brentwood.

Fig & Olive Melrose Place is now open for dinner. Lunch service and the outdoor terrace are scheduled to begin on Monday, March 21st.

Fig & Olive
8490 Melrose Place
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 360-9100
www.figandolive.com

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