Chef Ray Garcia—a rising star in LA’s exuberant dining galaxy—refers to his food at FIG as “traditional bistro fare,” but it’s so much more than that. On any given night he sources up to 90% of the ingredients locally, and has the wisdom to know the best ingredients need only a gentle touch to shine: “Sometimes you get the best results by knowing when to leave them alone,” he adds.
Garcia, an LA native, studied under Thomas Keller at The French Laundry and Douglas Keene at Cyrus; it shows in his exquisite and precise seasonal cooking. He’s been on Angeleno‘s “Best of LA” list, earned two and half stars from the Los Angeles Times in the first two months FIG was open and has been fêted at the James Beard House.
To see true proof of his talent, though, all you have to do is show up for dinner. If you truly want to gild the seasonal lily, treat yourself to one of his Feed Me dinners. It’s an omakase-inspired tasting menu, but with Garcia’s delectable twist: at FIG, the tasting menu is determined by the chef and diners together.
The five-course meal begins with a thoughtful conversation with the chef; not only can he serve up a gluten-free, vegan or friendly-to-nearly-any-diet menu, but Garcia takes it further by sharing his loveliest local fruit and vegetable finds, fresh from the Santa Monica Farmers Market or a small California farm. He also takes time to learn about any dinner table favorites, and he assesses exactly how adventurous everyone’s taste buds are that evening to ensure a heavenly custom dining fantasy.
The final menu might consist of modified dishes from the existing roster, a private preview of a few upcoming menu items, or some on-the-spot creations. The cost ranges from $65 to $105, depending on the final ingredients.
Whatever the final menu, it’s guaranteed to be sustainable: the chef sources local organic, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat and poultry (including pasture-raised, acorn-fed Berkshire pork from La Quercia Farms), seafood with a seal of approval from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, grows herbs and peppers on site and not only recycles but composts the restaurant’s waste as well. Garcia has even solved a common restaurant dilemma of how to dispose of copious amounts of fryer oil: he sends it off to be turned into hand soap.
Chef Garcia describes his food as, “Fresh. Simple. Unassuming. Sustainable.” It seems he forgot one: “Stellar.”
FIG is located inside The Fairmont Hotel at 101 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica.
Open Sunday and Monday for lunch, 7:00am-2:00pm, and Tuesday to Saturday for lunch, 7:00am-11:00am, and dinner, 5:00pm-10:00pm.
Valet is available for cars and (as part of Garcia’s commitment to sustainability) bicycles.
Images courtesy of FIG Restaurant.