Monday, July 19, 2010

The restaurant that doesn't serve bread

olive breadImage by stu_spivack via Flickr

If you go to Fig & Olive in the Meat Packing District of Manhattan for a $24.07 lunch today, you'll find a bread plate on your table and a server will bring you some nice, crusty olive bread. If you went Sunday and ordered from the same Restaurant Week lunch menu -- as I did -- your bread plate will remain empty and eventually will be taken away.

Why no bread service at Sunday lunch? It's apparently because the restaurant also serves brunch on Sundays, and its brunch menu offers bread for $3.50 or an assortment for $9, with jams and an olive-oil-and-honey mixture. The waiter actually showed me the brunch menu and asked me if I wanted to order bread.

I'm a bread person, and I briefly considered stiffing him with only a 10% tip, but he was careful to explain it's the restaurant's policy, not his.

I also didn't see any figs, one of my favorite fruits, or any dishes with figs. Dessert was strawberries with mascarpone on shortbread "crostinis," made ahead, the waiter said, so I couldn't get it without the triple-cream cheese. So I ate only six small strawberries with micro-basil in 18-year-old balsamic vinegar.

Well, at least my appetizer and entree were good, but I didn't leave the restaurant with the same  full, contented feeling I had on Friday after a $24.07 lunch at Esca, a seafood restaurant where admittedly I went overboard by eating six pieces of bread. (See post, My $24.07 lunch at Esca.)

The bread incident only highlighted the stark contrast with Esca, a smaller, busier place where the food and service excel. Fig & Olive is cavernous and cold, reflected in the bare metal table I was seated at in the lounge and the waiter coming over in less than a minute after I received food to ask if everything was OK.

My starter at Fig & Olive was a tumbler of gazpacho with two very thin, almost cracker-like pieces of toast. For my entree, I had a bowl of vegetables (carrot, onion, artichoke, pea pods and olives) topped with a moist fillet of caramelized cod, served with the skin on. There was a nice broth with extra-virgin olive oil in the bottom of the bowl -- another reason the lack of bread seemed a crime -- so I had to ask for a soup spoon to finish it.

On the way out, I told the manager it made no sense to serve bread with lunch on weekdays, but not on Sundays. He said he would pass on my comment to the chef.

NYC Restaurant Week Information 

(Photo: Olive bread.)

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