In a city that boasts the Original Farmers Market and is brimming with organic and vegetarian-friendly eateries, it's not unusual to see a list of peak-season produce on chalkboards or the bottom of menus at restaurants. What is unusual is when those advertised fruits and vegetables aren't to be found in the kitchen.
Enter FIG, a restaurant located inside the Fairmont Miramar Hotel that, while technically delivering farm-to-table dishes, has let its original concept of revolving around in-season produce fall by the wayside. The menu you'll receive at the table is nearly identical to the six months-outdated version online, which in turn is largely the same to the one Jonathan Gold saw when he first reviewed it five years ago. In a locale that seems to pride itself in dedicated "Vegetable" menu sections, you'll be hard-pressed to find the current month’s freshest offerings here (hint: they'll most likely be in details of kale or spinach salads).
It says a lot that a recent chef’s choice tasting menu - a culinary avenue that traditionally relies heavily on farmer's market offerings – began with a garden beet, cooked to perfection and paired with a blackberry cream cheese. While they made for a lovely amuse bouche, the vegetable and fruit were also notorious early-fall ingredients.
And so, like the beet, FIG has gotten a little old. The same overdressed chopped salad with shaved apple chips and the same organic chicken make for an altogether unmemorable experience. The Indian-style curry, laden with tomatoes and eggplant, comes off as a one-note chili powder stew. The fish are routinely overcooked and less exciting than the separately-cooked sauces they sit in. Even the pommes frites are underseasoned and pushed to the side.
To be fair, there are some things that FIG does well. The Carlsbad mussels, cooked in a Chablis broth and served in an ingenius mini caldron with separate compartments for the shellfish and baguette, are a good choice for either a starter or entree. The fromage bar features several mammalian options expertly paired with fruits and nuts and is always worth a visit.
If you’re a people-watcher, FIG is a great lunch spot. With marble tabletops and a seaside location, the restaurant attracts posh hotel guests and casual surfers alike. A conversation at one table may entail upscale wedding planning while six feet away is a heated debate over In-N-Out and Five Guys. The clientele is varied, and the menu seems to revel to the diversity in offering both gluten-free lasagna and bacon-wrapped-bacon.
Certainly it’s an upscale restaurant hotel, but FIG is not much more than that: not an experience worth traveling half an hour for, not a destination dining location, and certainly not a seasonal menu molder.