Figa's Identity Crisis?
Figa Restaurant (249 Congress Street, Portland, ME) remains a fantastic place for a delicious meal. Interestingly, the restaurants Brazilian flare seems to have faded and is replaced by excellent French fare.
This weekend we stopped at Figa for a simple dinner. Rather than ordering dishes from the spoons and forks like times past, we stuck to a shared appetizer, two entrees, and a couple desserts.
For the appetizer, we had their venison sausage served on a bed of bitter greens. Even though the sausage was slightly dry, it was absolutely delicious. It came out quickly from the kitchen and served as a great bite next to a Tequila based Honeysuckle and the White Lotus, both from Figa's drinks menu.
For dinner, I had the hangar steak served with perfectly cooked root vegetables and brussel sprouts. The vegetable side-dish could easily be its own plate; it's rare to find properly cooked vegetables in today's eclectic restaurants. The steak was satisfying although a bit chewy, perhaps I simply had it too rare. I suppose the only Brazilian twist on, what I see as, Figa's take on steak-fritte was the use of yucca in the vegetables. However, by all accounts, this was a French dish cooked by a very talented French-trained chef.
My cohort had the Cassoulet served with duck confit, sausage, and pork belly. A rich, decadent, and satisfying meal that stands up to my Old Port Favorite: the cassoulet at Five Fifty Five. What put it over the top, however, were the three meats paired with the dish.
For dessert we had the coconut-lychee ice cream and their pound cake. The good news is Figa's deserts have come a long way from the time the restaurant opened. Taste wise, both were refreshing and a wonderful end to a rich meal. Unfortunately, even though it tasted great, the ice-cream was broken and should have never left the kitchen.
In short, Figa is one of my absolute favorites. The covert switch to a very French bistro menu, and its excellent execution, is sure to propel Figa towards further success. My only thought is whether or not this restaurant is still Figa. After-all, if the food is the soul of a restaurant, did Figa's soul get replaced?