Has Anyone Tried Figa in Portland?
We stopped in once back in December, but the place was chaotic: very small, outside door opens into diners' backs, front end not well organized, no place to wait except breathing down the necks of other diners, etc., so we left. Friends found the food good, but not outstanding.
Tried Figa last night for the first time - we were very pleased with the experience. Really like what they've done with the space and what they're doing with the food. First, the place is small, as in really small. About 20 seats with another 8 or so at the bar. Most seating is along one long wall with tables set up as 2-tops. If you're a party of 4, they just slide two table together. On our night there were mainly 2's which meant the space between tables is very small. Not a big deal for us (we actually chatted a bit with a couple next to us) but it could be an issue if you're looking for an intimate dinner for two - that ain't happening here. The bar is nice and it appears it's really set up as another place to eat - I can't imagine stopping by for a drink. The size of the place could be an issue if there is a wait for a table as there really is no place to wait but with all that being said, I think they did a good job with the space they had to work with.
They have the menu set up as "spoons", "forks" and "knives" (small tastes, half portions and entrees - many of the spoons are simply smaller portions of the knives). We ordered 2 "spoons" - spicy tofu and black bean quinoa. Calling these "small" is actually a misnomer as these were not very small at all (I was expecting a tablespoon-size portion). We were able to split these and each had much more than a bite or two. As for taste, both were very good - maybe just a little under seasoned. I found myself looking for salt for the quinoa and the spicy tofu, to my wife's delight, was not spicy. Not bland, but certainly not spicy enough to be called "spicy".
We split a "fork" mesclun salad with pear and vinaigrette. They actually split the plate for us - they asked if we would like it that way - I never ask a kitchen to split a plate as I know too many chefs who hate doing that, for good reasons but that was nice for them to do. Once again, a very large salad for each of us - so big that I had to ask if 1 salad would really have been both our plates combined. Very good but a little under-dressed.
Entrees, excuse me, "knives", were the salmon tandoori and the duck breast. The duck was perfectly cooked with nice flavors and a sweet potato mash which was very buttery - just how I like it (luckily, I had just refiled my lipitor prescription). My wife had the salmon - once again, a little on the safe side as far as seasoning goes. Not bland but not bold either. The piece was a nice size that varied in thickness so an even cook was all but impossible. She likes her fish medium and the thicker part was rare in the middle (I liked it that way) but still, I'm glad they did not discard the belly portion to get an even sized piece.
Dessert was a creme brulee trio: a chocolate, an orange and a lemon in 3 nice sized dishes. They were great to look at and to eat. A french press coffee is served with a little "hour glass" type timer - when the sand runs out, the coffee is ready - it was very cute.
Service was excellent - our server was personable, knowledgeable and attentive. They serve you a bottle of, I assume, tap water which is left at the table for you to refill your glass - I like this as I hate constant pouring across the table by the server and I never ran out of water.
Also some nice bread is served.
It was a Wednesday night and the chef/owner was not in - this may have accounted for what I considered them playing it "safe" with the flavors. I would have liked them to go a little more bold - everything was a little subtle - don't get me wrong, it was all tasty and very, very, good but it was one of those things where you think "oh, this is so close..." (somewhere there's a sex analogy here). Anyway, to sum up, I think this place is very nice with very good food that has the potential to be very great food and a good value ($115 - 2 apps, salad, 2 entress, $32 bottle of wine, dessert, cappuccino and coffee). A base-clearing triple off the wall - real close but not quite a home run - yet.
This is a little late but I wanted to just say that Figa is lovely all around. The space is tiny, yes, and I think the best seats are along the wall to the right as you walk in, but the space is very pleasant, inviting, and warm. The food was delicious--great flavors, variety, attention to detail, lots of local ingredients. Had my birthday dinner there with my 2 sons and husband (all appreciate good food), and we all loved it. Figa is a very fine addition to the Portland restaurant scene, very much in line with the high quality we've all now come to expect in our sophisticated culinary city. Hope you ended up giving it a try.