Monday, February 4, 2013

Fig Tree Cafe (Hillcrest) - San Diego, Ca

A Tree grows in Hillcrest
I guess MLK really liked his eggs because whenever his designated day rolled around, everyone celebrated by going out to breakfast. Well, that’s how it seemed when Tiff and I spotted a Disneyland-like line outside of Snooze before hearing there was an hour wait. Since we’d just dumped all of our change into the meter, we needed a close by contender to make up for our nickel-less knickers and rounding the corner, there was Fig Tree.

Tree huggers: A metal railing lassoed sidewalk tables, but missed us as we ducked into Fig Tree's narrow corridor comprised of exposed brick on the right, and stocked, wooden wine shelves stretching to the ceiling on the left, leaking enough space between bottles to peek in the dining room. And it was packed. Luckily, we spotted a couple of open seats at the bar that gave us an up-close-and-personal glimpse into the kitchen and an aerial view of the dining room’s marriage of metal and Mother Nature.

There was a raw element to Fig Tree, especially the back wall of brushed concrete showcasing a super-sized, steel square of industrial art, whose hole-punched front displayed a flourishing tree when lit up at night (almost like a new age Light-Brite). Exposed, Edison-style light bulbs and coarse, thick rope wound around overhead lights brought a little tangled chaos to the clean edge. I felt like I was in the nest of a very stylish bird.


Meatloaf Hash: three eggs any style + spinach + diced meatloaf + pesto + house potatoes

We were tempted to try some “man candy” (thick bacon + brown sugar + paprika), but decided to hit a heartier note with the meatloaf hash. I wouldn’t necessarily say the potatoes were crispy, though they were well-seasoned and added some needed texture, but it was the pesto finish that gave this hash a more potent high than THC, keeping the beef incredibly moist, while adding some herbaceous depth. A few loose leaves of spinach let me pretend this was healthy, but all I really had my eye on were the eggs.

I have to admit that I’m a total egg snob and rarely order them out because I’m always disappointed, but these over easy eggs were like angels’ eyeballs…and I couldn’t wait to poke them out. The whites were at that almost never achieved point of completely cooked, but still buttery without brown edges and the yolks could have won a marathon with the way they ran. Loaded on a piece of sourdough, I’m talking serious egg ecstasy (it probably helped that Fig Tree bought their eggs fresh from Ramona).

Flatbread: mozzarella + braised short ribs + rosemary potatoes + horseradish crème fraiche

As hard as I am on eggs, I’m even a worse critic of crust - I’m talking Judge Judy level of scrutiny here. Fig Tree called this flatbread, but to me, it tasted like some serious east coast style, pizza crust*. Its thin profile was barely puffed from the pizza oven, but the heat had formed a simple sturdiness and the rare ability to hold its shape – no front nose-flops here!

Besides holding its shape (and my attention), the crust stayed solid under the bulk of meat and potatoes. The short rib was aptly named because it fell a little short in the flavor department and its thin slices were overshadowed by the sizzling “carb on carb” action taking place between the crust and rosemary potatoes. Though, the horseradish crème fraiche worked its sensory magic of heating the tongue, yet cooling in the same instant and spicing up the somewhat timid short rib.

*They also offer pizza, but the crust looked a bit thicker.

Strange fruit: I was happy with our choices, but for some reason I couldn’t see myself choosing Fig Tree when planning an “eating outing” – can’t really say why. We hit high points and not necessarily any lows, but I was left with the feeling that it was just “ok”. Fig Tree reminded me of a likeable booty call. I’d remember them fondly when they were brought up, even if I had no plans on seeing them again soon. But if I was in the area and feeling a little hungry, I’d definitely hit them up…because I had to admit, they had some tasty junk in the Fig Tree trunk.

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