Not too long ago, my mom and I made some time in the middle of the day to venture out to the South of France. Except, the South of France that I am referring to is present on the Gold Coast’s Oak St inside the elegant Fig & Olive. This sophisticated Mediterranean themed restaurant can be found in the trendy and hip cities throughout New York, California, and of course Chicago. Inspired by the South of France, everything in Fig & Olive pays very close attention to maintaining the details of the region. From the displays of the collections of olive oil to the oceanside vibe decor; Fig & Olive stays true to the essence of the Mediterranean.

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From the hustle and bustle of the city, we all crave for an escape every once in a while.  That escape can be found once you walk through the doors of Fig & Olive. What better time in the day to experience the sun at its brightest and people at their friendliest than during weekend brunch hours.

If bright sunlight against the crisp white curtains wasn’t enough to put some pep in my day, I’m sure a nice filling brunch would do the trick. While I typically play it safe with my brunch by always ordering some form of an omelette, I adopted the mentality of “When in Rome.”

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When you are dining at Fig & Olive whether it be for brunch, lunch or dinner; it’s important to note that your taste buds will go on an international journey. The offerings on the menu take you to France, Italy and Spain throughout the course of your meal. This creates a mixture of flavors and textures as these regions come together in perfect harmony on your plate.

To get our palates ready for the delightful meal we were about to receive we ordered some “Mocktails” These drinks are only offered during brunch so I highly recommend checking them out. As a self-proclaimed soft drink mixologist, I can appreciate a well-crafted beverage especially one that is non-alcoholic. I ordered the Spiced Orchard which featured cloudy apple juice, muddled Thai basil & lemon with fresh squeezed ginger and lime juice. The results were absolutely delicious. It was the perfect way to begin our meal.

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On the day that we attended, Restaurant Week was still going on so we ordered from the prix fixe menu. To begin our meal, we selected the chef selection crostinis. This is the portion of the meal where we ventured to Italy as we ate varied ingredients on top of toasted bread. Since this was chef selection, I am unable to tell you what exactly I ate.  If I had to make a guess, one of the crostini featured avocado as a base with shrimp on top, another featured some type of meat, and the last crostini featured a jam-like spread with cheese with a garnishing of nuts.  Each crostini was delightful, but the one with the primary focus on some form of meat (in the middle) was my favorite of the three.

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The next portion of the meal were the appetizers. For this portion, I ordered the salmon crudo.  When I looked up crudo, I learned that crudo is the Italian form of raw fish. As a lover of sushi, I wanted to know what was the difference between crudo and sashimi. While they are both raw fish, the sashimi has an emphasis on bringing out the natural flavors of the fish through a highly skilled cutting technique. Whereas crudo selections have a focus on the added ingredients that are used to bring out the flavor. These ingredients tend to be flavorful oils and sauces which is exactly what my dish featured. The salmon crudo was presented on a dish gently soaked with Cobrancosa Olive Oil and it was lightly garnished with grapefruit, orange, dill and lemon scallion. The dish was pleasing overall and the olive oil created a light flavor.  With sashimi, we may add soy sauce which is heavier in flavor, whereas with crudo the olive oil creates a light flavor. Since there are varied techniques between the preparation of crudo and sashimi, it is important to note that the taste will not be the same.  It all depends on your matter of preference and how you prefer your dish to be seasoned. Since this was an appetizer, I think it was fitting that the salmon crudo wasn’t too rich in flavor so it wouldn’t take away from the rest of the meal.

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Now for the main attraction. I’m sure we can all remember that meal we had we where completely forget where we are. It’s the meal that is so delicious that you stop worrying about being prim and proper and you just devour your dish. This is exactly what happened when I took one bite of the Paella del Mar. This meal was every bit of the latin flavor that we would see in Spain. A bright colored dish loud and enticing with flavor.  Enclosed within the colorful array of arborio rice and peppers was black tiger shrimp, calamari, mussels, and I added scallops. This selection was delightfully seasoned with saffron aioli, pimenton & oregano, as well as Hojiblanca olive oil. Everything about this dish was absolute perfection. After the rice, I began to make my way to the seasoned seafood selections. The shrimps, the scallops, as well as the mussels, were quite magnificent. Now I am biased since I love seafood, but I do know good seafood when I taste it and this was it.

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While the Paella del Mar brought me to a level of complete satisfaction, I wasn’t entirely sure if I had room for dessert. I selected the Dessert Crostini which featured pistachio shortbread with micro basil; topped with Amarena cherry and mascarpone.  The dessert crostini was delicious with the Amarena cherry really hitting that sweet spot.

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My mother had the Chocolate Pot De Creme which is literally translated as chocolate pot of cream. It featured crunchy pralines financiers and vanilla cream. When her dessert initially came out we were confused because we thought it was literally a cup of cream. As you scoop into the cream, it was a chocolate lovers delight hidden underneath a layer of vanilla cream. The chocolate was incredibly rich which is why this dish is suitable for chocolate lovers. The desserts were small, so it was quite easy to make some room for these tasty treats.

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Our brunch which was a courtesy of Fig & Olive, added the perfect touch to a Saturday afternoon. I highly recommend this Gold Coast hot spot for anyone who wants a little European flair with their meal. My mother who is incredibly selective with what she eats, was also quite pleased so you can take her word for it as well.

A special thank you to our amazing server Carla who was exceptional. Be sure to ask for her!