Fork, Spoon and our darling Cheese Plane met up for the NYC Lab School’s annual Tastes. Great cause, great way to try new restaurants. Sadly, even after 6 tastes each, the cutlery were still hungry for more, too tired to walk far, and decided to give Fig & Olive‘s Meat Packing District’s location a try.
Fig & Olive is on not too busy West 13th, just up the street from Spice Market, across the street from a fabulous gallery – other than that, there is nothing on this block.
There is outdoor seating in the front, but it was SO hot,we wanted the coolness that only air conditioning can bring. Fig & Olive is a cavernous wide open space. Light, bright, but not cold in feeling. By the hostess desk there are shelves filled with olive oils from around the world, over the crostini bar shelves and shelves of wine.
Let’s start this way – it was 3:30 p.m., the restaurant was empty. Not slightly full, not a little full. Not slightly empty. Completely and totally empty. The young lady at the hostess desk inquired as to whether we had a reservation. No, we didn’t have a reservation – well, now except for the reservation about being here. We looked around the empty dining room and looked at her as she scanned the floor plan on her computer. Really? And then she asked us for a name – as if we were going to be relegated to some space to wait for a table to open up. Really? Perhaps for a mailing list? No, she only asked for a first name, no email address. Didn’t write it down or type it in anywhere, didn’t even use it. Seriously odd. She showed us to a table, dropped the menus, turned and walked away without uttering a single word. This is not starting off well.
First, Bus Boy A came over to the table. Would you like tap water or bottled water? We would like tap water, please. Away he went, never to return. Our waitress came over. Would you like tape water or Pellegrino water? Tap water, please. And away she went. She actually did return to take our order, but without water. Bus Boy B came over to the table and he asked – and I kid you not – would we like tap water or Pellegrino water. Really? And away HE went, never to return. We realize the restaurant was empty, and they were happy to have something to do, but at least bring the water at some point! Coordinate things, people! You would think that at least one person would have come back with water.
While we were looking over the menu – mostly to see if the choices we had made looking at the menu online were still available – we asked for bread. One of the intriguing things written about Fig & Olive online is their bread basket and olive oils. How the waiter comes over with a beautiful bread basket and a partitioned plate with three different olive oils, their origins and tastes being explained in great detail. Trying the olive oils was one of things that drew us to Fig & Olive.
The bread basket arrives at our table, with a little partitioned plate. But what’s in the basket are muffins and croissant and in the partitioned plate, butter and jelly. Huh? Directly behind us is the crostini station. Sitting on top of the glass shelf is a baguette. We can see it. It’s in plain sight. We asked and were told, they had no bread, would bring no olive oil. Apparently brunch is still served at 3:30 in the afternoon. Fork always though brunch was a combo of breakfast and lunch. Fork wondered what time dinner started. Did it start so far into the future that they didn’t have bread yet? By this time it was after 4:00, does dinner start at 8:00 p.m.? Steeeeeee-rike TWO!
I guess the odd look that spread across the faces of the cutlery gave our waitress pause and she brought over a plateful of the breads they put the crostini on. This bread is horrible. It has no taste. It was no flavor. It is toast 2×3″ pieces of flavorless toast. But we trudged on.
We decided on small plates to share and started with Zucchini Carpaccio. This was absolutely amazing and has been repeated in Fork’s home a number of time since this meal. Thin slices of raw zucchini were drizzled with Picholine olive oil and lemon juice, toasted pine nuts scattered across the top and shavings of parmesan cheese. Because the slices of zucchini were so thin, they didn’t have a raw taste to them. They could have brought two or three more plates of this and it would have been devoured. The olive oil and lemon juice made this dish very light and refreshing, the toasted pinenuts giving it a slight creamy warmth, the saltiness of the cheese giving it an extra edge, all of the flavors blending and melding together so beautifully. It needed just a little more lemon and just the slightest bit of salt.
Our second dish was a beautiful plate of figs, prosciutto, and cheese. The figs we halved and underneath very generous slices of prosciutto. There were only three little pieces of goat cheese, a little chintzy if you ask this Fork. The dish was drizzled with olive oil and minced chives scattered over the top. The goat cheese was warm and gooey. You can’t imagine the flavor of these three items together. This was seriously good. The only thing missing was … hmmmm … bread. Oh, that’s right, they don’t have any.
Funny though, if yo look through the brunch menu so many things are served on or with bread, it makes it unimaginable that they can’t serve bread to you if requested.
We decided to try the Crostini – you can either order three or six. The toppings looked interesting so we decided to order the six so we would have more variety. The bread this was on was awful. The same thing they had brought to the table when we asked for bread. The only saving grace here were the toppings. Crostini 1 – Cucumber and Greek Yogurt. Tasteless. Needed lemon, salt, pepper, garlic, something. Plain yogurt and cucumber are both sort of bland so without help this needed help. Crostini 2 – Crab and Lemon Cilantro Mayonnaise. Again, nothing to write home about, but certainly not as bad as Crostini 1. Crostini 3 – Mushroom, Artichoke, and Truffle Parmesan. Pretty tasty. Crostini 4 – Bresaola, Goat Cheese, and Black Olive Tapenade. Again, really good. But, can you really go wrong with bresaola? Crostini 5 – Prosciutto, Ricotta, Fig, Olive and Walnut. Not bad, but too much like one of the other appetizers that we had. The prosciutto here is dynamite. Crostini 6 – Manchego Cheese, Fig Spread and Marcona Almonds. Fig spread excellent. Manchego – can’t go wrong with that. The marcona almond was a little awkward, but that could simply be from sharing it!
The really difficult thing about the crostini was the bread, The bread was simply awful. Without a really good bread as a base for the crostini it really matters not what is put on top.
Last up was a Fig and Gorgonzola Tartlet. Melted gorgonzola, prosciutto, figs, walnuts, arugula and tomatoes. The menu says all of this is on a fine puff pastry. Nope. And we could hear the umpire calling strike 3. The puff pastry was so soggy it was inedible. There was nothing spectacular about this. Yes, the prosciutto was good, as were the figs and gorgonzola. The salad was limp, the dressing not quite right for the rest of the flavor profile. And, truthfully, all of that could have been forgiven if it weren’t for that puff pastry. It was shameful. It wasn’t even a misstep that someone just starting culinary school would make. Were they left over and there fore soggy from age? Were they just not cooked enough. Whatever the reason, it seriously spoiled this tartlet.
So, to sum it up – the hostess asked us if we had a reservation for a totally empty restaurant; they don’t have bread at any given time; bread for the crostini is seriously terrible; and someone there can’t bake puff pastry.
Would we like dessert? Heck, NO! If you can’t bake a puff pastry, what are you going to do to an innocent little cake or cookie!?