Hot and Crosti on a cold, wet evening.

Most of the Village Voice 2005 list has been a budgetary and culinary pleasure to pursue completing.  I wish I could say the same for the NY Metro list – they, apparently, have no idea that outer boroughs exist, save for the whiter, hipper enclaves of northwestern Queens and South Brooklyn.  For every gem like the Blue Ribbon Market, they’ve offered something like Fig and Olive (located at 62nd and Lex) that might well be cheap for the neighborhood, but hardly scores on a global scale, and probably isn’t worth a special trip.

Nonetheless, for the purposes of completism as well as other reasons (rain, girlfriend’s cowboy boots hurting her ankle, my random pasta craving), we popped into Fig and Olive last evening.  Immediately upon being seated (after, surprisingly, being asked if we had reservations), we were presented with a tasting array of olive oils with soft bread.  Unfortunately, I can’t for the life of me remember which the three were.  They were more or less on a sliding scale of fruitiness, and I ended up liking the least fruity of the bunch more, but I can’t tell you which it was.  Failing my duties as correspondent?  Mea culpa.  I can tell you that they were one each from France, Italy, and Spain, if I understood correctly.  No Portuguese oil?  My stepfather would protest.

I’m more able to describe in detail what our main entrees were, and they’re much more interesting to me, at any rate.  Mine was Penne Funghi Tartuffo, which was pasta with mushrooms dressed in truffle-infused olive oil, with a slab of melted parmesan on top, and dill floating around in the dish but not necessarily adding a large flavor component.  It hit the spot, but for $15…hmm.  Can’t I make this at home?  You know what, I KNOW I can make this at home.  That’s a potential problem with restaurants whose mantra is “simplicity,” I guess.  For six or eight bucks less, I’d worry about it less.

My girlfriend selected the crostini (sort of like bruschetta on steroids) tasting menu, wherein one can choose three crostis (ha!) from a menu of six.  She selected the “prosciutto, ricotta and tapenade fig & olive,”  “bresaola, goat cheese, and olive tapanade,” and “eggplant caviar with red bell pepper.”  Of the three, the bresaola was deemed the best.  (Bresaola is sort of a beef version of prosciutto – air dried, cured, and delicious, if you like this sort of thing.)  The flavorful meat complemented the pungent cheese and sweet tapenade (olive spread) nicely.

The prosciutto was deemed the first runner-up, though with much the same structure and merely a different meat and cheese (assuming, of course, that the tapenades are the same – lazy copy editing on the menu), I’d rather have two of the bresaola.  The eggplant caviar was a distant third – though certainly not bad, cold eggplant isn’t either of our most favorite textures to contemplate, and the caviar gave it a certain saltiness, though not much additional flavor.  The red peppers were nice, though – I realize it’s clichéd, but I’d have enjoyed these on a hero more than with the eggplant.

At $8.50 for the three crostini, we were satisfied with the portion and thought the food perfectly decent – this is probably the best bet for cheap dining here.  As with Blue Ribbon Market, however, you’ll need to decide whether you’re going to be satisfied with a sandwich (or 3 mini-sandwiches) that are missing their top piece of bread – unlike Blue Ribbon, though, the toppings were not uniformly excellent.

I say all this with kindness, however – there was nothing WRONG with Fig and Olive, per se.  I enjoyed what I ate, as did my girlfriend, and the service was excellent and attentive without being hovering, despite a busy early-evening restaurant.  But, for the price, actually worth it?  Ehh.

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