The French riviera comes to CityCenterDC with the debut of Fig & Olive.
An assortment of crostini is a popular starter at Fig & Olive.
Restaurateur Laurent Halasz had been visiting DC for years, but he finally decided it was time to put down roots. This June, he planted an outpost of his wildly successful, modern-minded Midi wonderland Fig & Olive on a prime corner in the recherché CityCenterDC development. “I want [the restaurant] to be an oasis within the city,” he says.
A fig tree sprouts on the first foor, adding a splash of green to the eatery’s primary palette of sand and ivory. Bottles of olive oil line shelves throughout, glimmering like gold when the light catches them just right. The entire two-story space is aglow from sunrise to sundown. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow a cascade of rays to food the sleek, sophisticated bistro. “You feel like you’re outside,” says Halasz.
It’s an apt feeling for a restaurant conceived as a tribute to Southern France, a region that gets its nickname, le Midi, from the sun’s location in the southern sky at midday. Hailing from the village of Mougins, near Cannes, Halasz opened the frst Fig & Olive in New York as a heartfelt homage to his homeland. “It’s the cuisine of my mother,” he says. “It’s simple, refned favors with elegant presentation.”
The boutique chainlet now has multiple locations in New York City and vicinity, as well as restaurants in Los Angeles and Chicago. “It makes my day very interesting,” says Executive Chef Frederic Guerin, who oversees coast-to-coast operations. “I don’t have time to get bored. It’s a great challenge.”
Guerin began his career in his home country of France at Lucas Carton in Paris and La Ferme de Mon Père in Megève, both of which boasted three Michelin stars. He moved to the States in 2009 for a high-profile appointment at the Plaza Hotel’s Oak Room before joining the Fig & Olive team at the beginning of the year.
“It’s the cuisine [of southern France and] of my mother. It’s simple, refined flavors with elegant presentation.”—Laurent Halasz
Guerin’s menu changes over the course of the year to showcase the bounty of each season. To ensure that it uses only the freshest ingredients, the restaurant taps several regional growers for its primo produce, including heirloom tomatoes from Tuscarora Organic Growers in Hustontown, Pennsylvania, and apples and peaches from Crown Orchard Company in Batesville, Virginia.
Not surprisingly, olive oil takes center stage. The kitchen utilizes more than 20 varieties, many of them available for purchase. The company carefully curates the selection, sourcing boutique batches from Spain, Chile, Portugal, France, and beyond. Meals begin with a tasting trio—usually one sweet, one peppery, and one boldly flavored—accompanied by fresh-baked rosemary focaccia for dipping. “We want the guests to have a different experience each time they visit us,” says Guerin, “so we change them every week or so.”
Every dish incorporates olive oil in some way. Highlights include a thinly sliced zucchini carpaccio zigzagged with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice, mushroom-packed croquette cubes with a truffed olive oil aioli, and fig-glazed branzino filet dazzled with 18-year-old balsamic vinegar and silky Arbequina olive oil. Even some of the desserts include it, such as a green apple sorbet crisscrossed with olive oil syrup and a caramelized cheesecake accompanied by a crunchy olive oil crisp.
But there’s one ingredient that’s noticeably absent in the offerings: butter. “I don’t miss it anymore,” says Guerin. “I was raised cooking with olive oil, so this is natural for me.” 934 Palmer Alley NW, 202-559-5004