Tacos for brunch, the perfect hangover cure, I say. Fig in Santa Monica gets that and has just added a brand-new taco bar to its Sunday brunch. It officially debuts this Sunday the 13th but I got a chance to check it out last week courtesy of the restaurant.
The taco menu features a wide variety to choose from, usual fare like chicken, carnitas and steak to those you don’t see too often, if at all, like lengua and chicaron. And everything is $3 a piece, that includes other taco menu items like sides queso fundido (naughty!) and nopales and even drinks sangrita and horchata. A nice deal in such a swank-looking setting like the fancy Fairmont Hotel’s restaurant.
For the hosted brunch, my friend Jules and I were sat at a table looking out at the pool which was surrounded by palm trees. This area of the restaurant is well lit thanks to the white tiles and white marble tables and the huge windows. Perfect for taking food pictures!
Now, we wanted to sample the new taco menu but also still leave room to try the other brunch items. The last time I went to the Fig they were still so new they hadn’t even started a brunch service yet. In any case, the restaurant had other ideas.
Not only did they set us up with the lengua and chicaron tacos we requested but they also sent over the queso fundido — which really should be eaten right away else it solidifies into a blob of unspreadable cheese — and some refried beans.
At first I had shied away from ordering the lengua (aka tongue) taco as childhood memories of my mom serving up cubes of boiled beef tongue traumatized me for life. But the meat here wasn’t chewy or tastebud-textured but rather tender and thinly sliced. OK, from now on I’m only having Chef Ray Garcia’s lengua. Heh.
The chicaron was a little more interesting to eat as I had to negotiate around the crisp pork skin with each bite but I am not complaining. The seasoned pig here reminded me of the Filipino lechon with the crunch of pork rinds. Very yummy and would pair awesomely with the Miller High Life which is on the taco menu for $3.
Now, since my friend Jules is in an advance state of pregnancy it was up to me to try the brunch cocktails. I know, I know. They sent over the infamous bacon and eggs cocktail which is made of bacon infused-gin and egg whites. I thought for sure this would be love at first sip for me but instead I just found it OK, even with that big ol’ bacon as a garnish.
This brunch drink was very tame compared to Fig’s Blood Maria. I could taste the hint of bacon on the back of my palate and the potency was very light which I guess is fine for brunch. I may just be coming at it from a “night on the town” perspective. But it’s not my favorite brunch cocktail. That crown still goes to the bourbon milk punch at Joe’s Restaurant in Venice.
However, if you are looking to get your buzz on in the a.m. their Bloody Maria is definitely the way to go. I’m not really a fan of Bloody Marys but this one was so spicy and potent, I coughed after the first sip and even moaned a bit after.
For “lighter” options, they do offer a beer list. The Brasserie Dupont Saison was the perfect upscale alternative to the High-Life for a taco brunch pairing. It’s like a beer/champagne if you will. And a great non-alcoholic choice is their housemade horchata which I wish they served without the ice so that I could have more of it.
Surprisingly we still had room in our bellies to order up brunch dishes like the must-do bacon waffles with bacon ice cream and Trockenbeerenauslese syrup, and a trio of salads to off-set it. The bacon waffle was amazing. It showed up at our table with two huge strips of bacon protruding from its sides and the hard-to-pronounce syrup had bits of bacon in it as well. A small scoop of bacon ice cream sat on top. That combination of the sweet wine syrup and vanilla-y waffles with the savoriness of all that bacon was heavenly. Bacon fiends will probably explode with glee when pairing this with that bacon and eggs cocktail.
For the other end of the spectrum, Fig also serves some delicious salads. My faves were the Fuyu Persimmon salad with rocket, young fennel, walnuts and cranberry vinaigrette and the grilled pear salad with Point Reyes Blue Cheese, filberts and blueberry vinaigrette. Everything was so fresh. We only had small portions to sample but the regular size one is sure to satisfy any light eater.
Now if I was paying for brunch, I’d definitely opt for the very affordable taco bar if I didn’t feel like doing the double-digit priced brunch items. Order up a couple a tacos, a side and a drink and that’s only $12. At $3 an item it’s unbelievably cheap for what you get — high-quality, fresh food in a high-class setting.
Fig at the Fairmont Santa Monica
101 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica, California 90401 (map)