WILSHIRE BLVD — As a beer connoisseur and amateur brewer (here’s a shout out to my brew club Pacific Gravity), when I got wind of the FIG restaurant’s plan to flip the script on brunch with their new “Kegs & Eggs” menu, there was no way I could resist.
And here’s why. For just $37, one can down as many specialty beers as they can stomach (or as much as they can drink in three hours or so) and dine on simple, fresh egg dishes that provide a little comfort and nostalgia (think back to those college days) on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
I made a reservation right away for last Sunday, the day Chef Ray Garcia and Creative Director Matthew Lehman unveiled their latest creation. Lehman said they wanted to break away from the stuffy Sunday brunches found along Ocean Avenue, where the mimosa is king. They wanted something that fit more with the restaurant’s spirit, which combines the essence of fine dining but with the comfort and ease of a California bistro.
When I arrived, I was seated on the patio overlooking the Fairmont Miramar’s pool and watched as children tossed a beach ball while their parents sunbathed or read the morning paper. There was a cool breeze and slight overcast, perfect beer sipping weather.
During the three hours I spent there eating, drinking and soaking in the atmosphere, I tasted nearly every beer they had to offer. I started with the marvelously crafted Brasserie Dupont Saison, which offered a refreshing, spicy bite along with a smooth, dry finish to help quench my thirst. The brewery is run by the family Dupont, ensuring a traditional taste. The second beer I tried was by far my favorite, the powerful Koningshoeven “Quadruple” Trappist Ale, a 10 percent kick in the pants with a deep amber color and a slightly sweet, Belgian influence featuring just a touch of hops. Also on the list was a rich, wheaty Hefeweizen by Schneiderweisse, a king when it comes to making this cloudy, flavorful brew. It had hints of banana and sourdough yeast, a beer one could drink all Summer.
There was also Stella Artois on tap, but when surrounded by these other rare brews, why bother drinking that run of the mill offering. My one criticism would be the presence of Stella on the menu since it is so easy to find elsewhere, but perhaps it had to be there for all those beer novices.
For those who do not care for beer (and you must be crazy), the menu also offers some interesting cocktails, including one made with bacon-infused gin that they make in-house, and a blood orange beet mimosa (cocktails range from $6-14).
So right about now, you’d most likely be falling out of your seat. And that’s where the grub comes in. Garcia, a Los Angeles native, serves up some traditional dishes, including eggs Benedict and chilaquiles with crispy tortilla chips, chicken, salsa roja and queso fresco.
Since FIG was founded on the belief that fresh ingredients are they key to flavor, Chef Garcia doesn’t get too complicated, instead creating simple dishes where each ingredient stands on its own or combines with the others for a clean taste that doesn’t disappoint.
Case in point, the steak and eggs. Having spent some formidable years in the Mid-West — Iowa to be exact — where my family actually purchased a cow with our neighbors, butchered it and had the most tender roast you will ever taste, I couldn’t pass up on this classic American breakfast. Garcia and his crew prepared a beautiful piece of bavette cooked medium rare combined with two eggs over easy with a creamy yoke that went well with the potato wedges and a mouth-watering, roasted tomato that tied it all together. The bavette, the French word for the cut, is more commonly known as flap steak or the working man’s steak because it comes from the less tender regions of the animal. While it is cheaper than more popular cuts, it offers a wonderful meaty flavor and fine texture when prepared carefully. And boy was it — so tender and juicy.
Usually when I eat eggs I have to pour on the pepper and the Tabasco sauce to spice it up. But with this dish, just a few twists of the pepper grinder was all I needed. It was something with the yoke. It was more flavorful and thick than other eggs I’ve eaten, making for a gravy of sorts.
The dish offered the perfect portions, leaving me delightfully full. The service was adequate (I could have used faster re-fills, but then again I probably couldn’t have walked out of there), while the setting was soothing.
I am making a regular appearance at this brunch while it lasts. The chance to drink several beers, eat great food and get a little R&R at one of the nicest hotels in Santa Monica is something you can’t pass up. Just make sure you have someone to drive you home, or take the Big Blue Bus like I did.
FIG is located on Second Street between Wilshire Boulevard and California Avenue at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows.
Brunch will be available on Sunday mornings from 11 a.m. — 2 p.m. For reservations, call (310) 319-3111. For more information, visit figsantamonica.com.