Some people would look at the former Republic (or Bliss, depending on your timing) space on Melrose Place and think: nightclub. It's a huge two-level space, and most former tenants had a relatively short shelf life. But Laurent Halasz glanced once and said: olive oil. That's the focus of his restaurant, lounge and retail space, Fig + Olive, slated to open next month.
This is Halasz's West Coast flagship for the mega-Mediterranean concept; there are four in New York City, the first having opened in 2005. Imagine 8,000 square feet of the French Riviera, with olive trees, rosemary plants, wrought iron accents, lots of windows and candlelight. And olive oil -- lots and lots of olive oil.
"The location is very similar in design and size to our flagship in the Meatpacking district in New York," says Halasz. "And Melrose Place is so iconic in L.A. I fell in love with the idea of offering dinner al fresco on this street."
This massive space never quite felt intimate enough for a restaurant, but that might actually change with Fig + Olive. There will be a bar and communal dining downstairs, mostly for walk-ins and olive oil tasting, and sipping wines from the European-heavy list or signature cocktails; there will be an array of dirty martinis with your choice of olives and brines.
The spacious dining room is flooded with natural light during the day, brightened up by a wall of windows and white stucco walls. There's a covered terrace off to one side, and a sidewalk patio on Melrose Place. Upstairs, the small lounge remains, with the requisite French and Italian DJs, plus more Med-inspired cocktails.
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"I always wanted to come to Los Angeles," says Halasz. "The climate is very similar to where I grew up. So naturally, I think the food that I grew up in the South of France will be appreciated here."
Which means no butter. Instead, the chefs use olive oil in ... everything. Look for dishes like zucchini carpaccio with Picholine olive oil, chicken paillard with herbs de Provence and rosemary olive oil, and olive oil gelato and madeleines. As the name suggests, fig is as prominent as the liquid gold: on crostini with manchego cheese, stuffed inside ravioli with Iberico ham, and served alongside salads and herb-encrusted grilled meats. The menu is similar to the East Coast locations, but the executive chef, Pascal Lorange, who's been with the company since 2005, will add some signature dishes and promises to weave in local, seasonal ingredients.
And just when you think you're over oiled, many you taste on the menu can be picked up in the retail shop: There will be more than 30 different olive oils from France, Spain and Italy, plus aged vinegars, olives and spreads.
Halasz calls this the West Coast flagship, and while there are plans to eventually open more, nothing is set in stone yet. Fig + Olive will debut on March 8, but you know how these things go. Check back here for updates.