I know it isn’t new, but FIG is a 2010 favorite.
First opened in Feb of ’09, Fig remains fresh & relevant with Chef Ray Garcia’s solid Mexican influenced Cal-French-American cuisine. Stripping away the labels, it’s beyond solid food, set in a pleasant hotel room that doesn’t make you feel like a corporate drone stuck in Nebraska during Thanksgiving.
The market driven menu might be a little bit kitsch, but it’s earnest and welcomed. Fig Restaurant’s menu rotates a few times a year, though there’s still plenty of room on the menu to keep the crowd favorites (3 onion soup, steamed mussels, cavalo nero meatballs, tomatillo lengua, etc.). The breadth of the menu, and the coverage it provides, is immense. Culling the strengths of the kitchen staff, the chicken parfait is spot-on, yet the tomatillo lengua is probably better than your grandmother’s. Crusty 3 onion soup here rivals Bouchon’s infamous 5-hour onion soup and still, there’s surprisingly good steak (wet aged 32 days) for the hotel tourist crowd. Yes, there’s even a really good Niman Ranch schnitzel. From well over a dozen meals here, the only truly “not good” thing was the signature Fig bar dessert. In fact, if there’s any major detraction from the otherwise perfectly good menu, it’s the dessert offerings. Fear not, for every meal can end with a modicum of cheese. The cheese stock can’t compete with Cube, Comme Ca, AOC nor Bistro LQ, though it is accessible and curated.
Prices are nearly affordable, with entrees always large enough to share for two; the service is Santa Monica affable. Best of all, it’s 1-block proximity to the Santa Monica Farmers Market offers LA foodiots the wet dream of literal farmers (Market) to restaurant cuisine for breakfast, brunch, lunch AND dinner. Fig can really do no wrong, it can even execute rattan furniture while retaining some form of dignity.
101 Wilshire Blvd (Fairmont Miramar Hotel)
Santa Monica, CA 90401
There’s a certain negativity enshrouding the operations of Waterloo & City — claims of draconian staff treatment in both front of the house and kitchen circulates — but upon entering the bar space, all is forgiven & forgotten
To be honest, the dining room is a stranger to me. Every meal taken at Waterloo & City has been at the bar / lounge. Here, there are no gimmicky offals (though blood cake & calf liver does occasionally make the specials board), no waste of foie on a pile of spam, no Cal-Jewish mashup. Meat and cheese greet you at the bar. The cocktails are semi-classic, but not of “mixology” standards. For daily drunkeness purposes, the simple Dark & Stormy along with Westside both suffice. Better pairings would be from the draft list, now numbering at 10. Did I mention Gaymer Cider’s Blackthorn is available from tap? Draft cider that’s not Widmer’s? Is a cider and cheese pairing avant garde enough for hipsters? I think so.
The focus here is Brit-inspired pub food, comforting to some, too meaty for some, familiar to most. Decor? Chocolate & mocha paint, polished concrete floor, dark wooden unsurfaced tables & copper cover bar. It’s warm, comforting, but not stale. Very pubby indeed, save for the ubiquitous pizza menu found during happy hour.
On the bar menu alone, 7 kinds of charcuterie are offered. And really, what more does one need? There’s salmon terrine gribiche, there’s chicken & foie mousse, there’s various in-house cured pork. Life’s instantly grand when the small pile of salami, capicola, prosciutto arrives. Showing further dedication to the emulsified meat program is the “late night” menu, half of which features, once again, charcuterie. What makes Waterloo & City different from the various salumi programs in town? There’s a sense of intangible seriousness in the dining room. W&C wants to survive through profitability, and one must respect that. This isn’t some podunk joint staffed with chefs with callings much too high to reach, Waterloo & City is a concerted effort by both chef and the managing partner to stay in business by providing attractive food at a fitting price point relative to the neighborhood. For those not in the neighborhood, there’s sickeningly affordable valet (once a free for all parking lot) at Ktown prices.
Last month, the under-utilized “Wreck Room” was converted into a larder. Now nearly all the charcuteries are available for sale. Again, Waterloo & City is doing many things that’s en vogue, yet operating within the confines of the chef; the entire restaurant is an sample in detailed execution, and no one had to play footsie with OpenTable just to pay to eat plates of experimental food served en masse at some haphazard “pop up” restaurant.
Waterloo & City
12517 W Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90066
Nota bene: due to no small amount of coincidence, both of these restauarants happen to sport 2.5* from SIRENEV, and both sport value-opriented happy hours. Witness the picture of Fig Restaurant doing 50% entire menu from 5:00-6:00pm, Tuesday through Saturday and Waterloo & City doing a daily (gasp!) happy hour menu from 5:00-7:00pm at the bar. But really, this isn’t a year-end round up of best cocktail happy hours; my idea of the perfect boozy happy hour is a bottle of Chimay in my hand, sitting on the deck, with my feet on the napping golden retriever.
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