Figs Fine Food

Lebanese, Moroccan
$$$$ ($14 and under)
'

Editorial Review

An inviting mix of sweet, savory
By Justin Rude
December 3, 2010

When Reem Azoury opened her stylish Moroccan/Lebanese market and restaurant in the District's Palisades neighborhood in 2005, it quickly earned a reputation as a healthful and delicious option for pan-Middle Eastern favorites. Azoury is now gone (she moved to Lebanon with her family early this year), but she left Figs Fine Foods in the capable hands of her partner, Michael Alfa.

Luckily, not too much has changed, but that doesn't mean Alfa hasn't been innovative. An addition to the restaurant's arsenal of sandwiches, salads and sides is his "wish list." To make sure loyal customers get first crack at their favorite specials - which often sell out quickly - Alfa keeps a list of guests and their favorite Figs foods, such as the chicken tagine or artichoke crowns and rice. When those dishes are on the menu, he sends text messages to those on the wish list asking if he should set some aside for them.

"People have really responded to it," Alfa says. "Right now it's growing by leaps and bounds. I'm going to need someone to manage it soon, it's getting so big."

On the menu: The chicken tagine, tart with preserved lemons and served with couscous, is only one of the traditional Moroccan dishes on the menu. Other Middle Eastern flavors include b'stilla, a chicken and almond pie dusted with powdered sugar that mixes sweet and savory in the same dish, and zaa'louk, a cooked salad of eggplant and tomatoes.

But while there are plenty of Moroccan and Lebanese influences on the menu, it isn't dominated by them, leaving room for others, such as the Italian flavors that appear in the eggplant gratin with turkey Bolognese sauce, or the Greek influence behind the vegan spinach pie.

The restaurant is probably at its best when it fuses all these flavors, such as in the Figs special sandwich, an open-faced affair that tops Persian barbari bread with Lebanese fig jam, brie, sliced pear and walnuts. The sandwich is warmed in the oven just before serving, and the result is sweet, slightly melted and very satisfying.

Figs Fine Foods is vegetarian and vegan friendly with a huge selection of meatless salads, sides and sandwiches and rotating specials.

At your service: Alfa is a gregarious host, greeting customers as they enter and helping them make selections before ringing them up. He even admits to making off-menu specials for regulars, including a delicious-sounding turkey meatball sub with mozzarella and basil cooked inside the barbari flatbread.

Wet your whistle: Italian sodas and small-batch root beer highlight a case of soft drinks across from the cold display case.

Bottom line: A great neighborhood spot for healthful, flavorful fare.