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Fig & Olive Will Be All About Oil

The restaurant, opening its first Chicago location in July, skips butter and cream in favor of olive oils from all over Europe.

Paella at Fig & Olive   Photo courtesy Fig & Olive

The place may be called Fig & Olive (104 E. Oak St., Gold Coast, 312-445-0060), but the emphasis is really on the olive. Laurent Halasz, Fig & Olive’s founder, uses olive oil instead of butter and cream in his dishes. Butter and cream bring down the flavors, he argues. “A careful selection of good ingredients—never complicate the recipe. We want the product to shine. It’s not a cuisine of the mind; it’s a cuisine of the ingredients,” he says.

The Chicago location, joining six others in the New York and Los Angeles areas, is scheduled to open its 10,000-square-foot, 270-seat location on June 26 in late July. In keeping with the Swiss-Army-knife-restaurant trend, Fig & Olive divides into several spaces: formal dining areas, an outdoor terrace, a small shop, a lounge, and a crostini station.

Halasz enthuses about the flexibility of olive oils, from the fruity versions from the south of France to peppery, assertive ones from Italy to Spain’s Arbequina, a buttery type. Bread served with three olive oils arrives at the beginning of a Fig & Olive dinner, to introduce diners to the differences. “We use olive almost like a spice,” he says. “Olive oil is a wonderful medium to absorb the taste of the herbs and spices. That’s how we don’t have sauces. We marinate with olive oil and herbs, and the flavors are going to penetrate.” He cites Roger Vergé’s cuisine du soleil philosophy as inspirational.

Menu items include:

  • Penne Funghi Tartufo, with cremini and black trumpet mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, and white truffle olive oil  
  • Paella with Hojiblanca olive oil
  • Fig-and-balsamic-glazed branzino with snow peas, figs, olive oil mashed potatoes and Koroneiki olive oil
  • Rosemary lamb chop smoked à la minute, with goat cheese and chive gnocchi, roasted honey, thyme eggplant, and rosemary-garlic olive oil

So how many of their foods have olive oil? Olive ’em.

Update: We just got word from the Fig & Olive team that their opening has now been pushed back to early July. We’ll keep you posted if we hear more.

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