FIG, Charleston SC

March 15, 2009

FIG (Food is Good) says that it is an owner-operated establishment which focuses on the resources of the area to create a daily changing menu featuring dayboat seafood, an abundance of local produce, and farm raised meats and poultry. That sounded like our priorities, too, so Linda, Blair and I went for dinner on March 13, 2009.

Our table was not ready so we went to the little waiting area off the bar, asked for the wine list and ordered a bottle of 2007 Miner, Simpson Vineyard, Viognier, which we started there and took to the table after a short wait.

At the table we looked at the one page menu. It was printed with the day’s date; it was quite different in details from what was on the website. There are eleven choices for appetizers, eight for main courses and five “vegetables to share for the table.” This limited, changing selection allows FIG to respect what is fresh and good.  After some discussion with our helpful waitress, we made our choices and ordered a bottle of 2005 Sass “Vieux Amis” Unfiltered Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. It was very nice.

Linda’s first course was
Warm Sweet Onion Tart
White Buck chevre, red cress, black olive

She thought this was good, but it needed something more to counterbalance the sweetness of the onion and the goat cheese. The pastry was light, flaky and nice.

Blair started with  
Windy Knoll Spicy Lamb Bolognese
ricotta gnocchi, pecorino

Blair wrote: “I thought it was very good, although not what I think of as a Bolognese sauce. While the tomatoes were certainly fresh there were more than I was expecting. The lamb flavor came through very nicely. The gnocchi were perfectly made, soft with just enough ridges to hold the sauce.”

My first course was 
Purée of Celery Root Soup
Tennessee black truffle, butter croutons

This was excellent. The chef succeeded in bringing out the flavor of the celery root and enhancing it. We had a discussion with the waitress while ordering about “Tennessee truffles.” She said that someone had succeeded in transplanting truffle spores from the Dordogne to oak groves in Tennessee. The little black julienne strips had no flavor in themselves. Perhaps it had been infused into the soup, but that was not evident to me.

Linda’s main course was
Four Story Hills Farm Veal Sweetbreads Piccata
sautéed winter greens, Jerusalem artichokes

She thought that the sweetbreads had a nice texture and flavor, although there was no evident “picatta,” which I would have thought meant lemon. The greens were excellent.

Blair’s second course was
Pancetta Wrapped Striper
soft polenta, mushroom, lemon, brown butter

The piece of striped bass wrapped in pancetta was lightly cooked. The polenta and mushrooms went well with it.

My main course was
Fudge Farms Pork Shoulder
kabocha squash purée, rapini, roasted grapes, pine nuts

This whole dish was superb. The pork had an excellent flavor. The squash had an uncomplicated flavor while the rapini, a type of turnip green, braised with a bit of something peppery and served with the roasted grapes and pine nuts was complex. It was a beautiful winter combination.

To share for the table we had an
Anson Mills Farro Piccolo Risotto
country ham

The farro had an earthy flavor and texture that went well with the country ham broth. Nice.

Between the main courses and the dessert we shared one order of the
Selection of Domestic Artisinal Cheeses.

The cheeses were from Vermont, Indiana, Oregon (blue) and Wisconsin. I can only guess that the Carolinas do not produce cheeses up to the chef’s standards. These four were very good, served at the right temperature and ripeness.

Blair’s dessert was
Honey Glazed Bosc Pear
pistachio ice cream, hazelnuts

This was a good dish although the pear had lost most of its texture. The ice cream had a great pistachio flavor. He had a glass of Jeio Bisol Valdobbiadene Brut NV Prosecco with it.

My dessert was
Banana Tarte Tatin
maple ice cream

This was terrific. The caramelization of the bananas was just right, not too sweet. I had a glass of Charles de Fere Reserve (Loire) dry rosé with it.

The meal was a very pleasant surprise. I was lucky in having made three excellent selections: the celery root soup, the pork shoulder and the banana tarte tatin. But there were no disappointments in the selections of my fellow diners. FIG’s premise is the type that is usually a figment of the creator’s imagination: 

We strive to be an unpretentious neighborhood restaurant, with professional service, a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere, and an affordable regional menu with honest and simple preparations.
The minimalist decor evokes a modern, yet comfortable feeling. Soothing earth tones with splashes of color, wooden bistro chairs, creative flower arrangements, long banquettes and community tables, all lend themselves to a vibrant social atmosphere.

Informed, & professional, yet warm & relaxed…..There is a sincere effort at FIG to educate our staff on all aspects of food and wine culture. The staff at FIG goes to great lengths to make everyone feel at home, and well taken care of.

Our food philosophy was born from the love of pure flavor. Using ingredients at their best, capturing the essence of the season, has been the FIG mantra from its inception. The kitchen at FIG goes through great lengths to procure the best products and prepare them with respect, creating menu items with simple appeal and elevated technique.

 In our meal FIG succeeded in all of these points. The varied clientèle was obviously having a good time. The noise level was too high at the start, but as the boistrous tourists were slowly replaced by calmer local folks it subsided a lot. Our servers were cheerful, helpful and informed. Our bill was less than $100 each, including everything but the generous tip I left.  Most important the choice of  ingredients respected local provisioning and the late winter season and were enhanced by the cuisine. Bravo. 

This photo was as were leaving.

I took this photo as we walked by the next morning.

2 Responses to “FIG, Charleston SC”

  1. sue girdwood Says:

    Mike — I should crib (with full attribution) FIG’s Mission Statement — there are many people serving food here who should be made to read, absorb and contemplate it with the hopeful result of a little more concern for what is put on diners’ plates!!!

    Your meal at FIG sounded very good indeed.

  2. ChuckEats Says:

    Here’s a link to the Tennesse Truffle:

    I had them at McCrady’s (Charleston too) and they were quite good. Blackberry Farm also advertises them quite a bit in their food.

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