I’ve got Marc Vetri on the mind. Ever since he opened Pizzeria Vetri Sept. 6 in Fairmount, all I could think about was pizza. I looked through the Zagat Guide to see if there were other Fairmount-area restaurants that specialized in pizza. The place I found was more of a take-out shop, so I had to go to Plan B.
Edward and I walked through the neighborhood, with a bottle of wine in hand, when we remembered Figs was just about a block away. I had not been to this delightful, cash only Mediterranean restaurant in more than 10 years. We were curious to see the dinner menu.
Figs is owned by executive chef Mustapha Rouissiya who I met at least 20 years ago. He is from Morocco and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a business law degree. After traveling through Italy, he found his heart’s desire was in the kitchen and not the court room.
His restaurant looks like it has been kissed by the sun with its warm yellows and oranges and colorful artwork and ceiling fans. It was a bit warm inside, so we dined outside.
Our server brought us warm bread and a ramekin of white bean humus scented with cumin and turmeric. The menu is a mix of Mediterranean fare with a Moroccan flair, but I was not surprised to find other dishes on the bill of fare since Rouissiya enjoys many cuisines.
We began dinner with an eggplant appetizer ($8) and “my favorite appetizer,” which turned out to be sashimi ($9). The Eggplant, which is a staple of Mediterranean cooking, was sliced and layered with goat cheese, placed in an oval baking dish, topped with fresh tomato sauce and fragrant basil. We dipped the bread into the sauce and enjoyed.
The sashimi was packed with flavor and eye appeal. Several cool slices of sushi-grade tuna, coated in black sesame seeds, was in fine company with the thinly sliced pickled ginger, squiggles of creamy wasabi, and a small mound of seaweed salad with soy sauce on the side. I even received wooden chopsticks, which was a delight.
For our entrees, we selected filet of sole ($21) and crispy duck breast. Moroccan cuisine sometimes has a French influence, which was evident in these dishes. The filet of sole was a fine, meaty portion of this mild fish stuffed with lump crabmeat and napped in a light mushroom cream sauce. The fish was perfectly cooked and served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and haricot vert.
Boneless breast of duck is a favorite of mine. Unfortunately, it was neither crisp or medium rare. Still it was tender and imparted a lovely flavor. I particularly enjoyed the fig and apple cider sauce, which also enhanced the fruit bread pudding. I am not too fond of fruit in savory dishes, but the use of the in-season, fresh and sweet figs helped make the bread pudding shine. Some fresh sautéed baby spinach with bits of garlic came with my entrée.
A glass of Moroccan sweet mint tea, which a waiter poured in a long stream from a small, metal teapot, cleared our taste buds for dessert. Pistachio ice cream is way up there on my list along with chocolate. It was a cool and refreshing way to end dinner. We also enjoyed the warm peach cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream.
Service was fine on all levels. Two servers took good care of us along with the other patrons who were dinning outside. Plan B turned out to be a good choice. We wanted to know if Rouissiya was in the kitchen, but he was visiting family in Morocco.
For a few delightful hours, my mind was off pizza. Three tips of the toque to Figs.
2501 Meredith St.
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