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Lifestyle news you can use: Learn from those who know

Lifestyle: Merv Hecht will be cluing us all in about the restaurant and wine scene in the Santa Monica and LA area. Merv’s reviews will be presented on Urbanfishpolecigars.com as we expand our lifestyle coverage for the website. Merv’s wine books will also be available for purchase very shortly on the site.

Welcome Merv and thanks for giving us your insight.

Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after law. In 1988, he began writing restaurant reviews and books. His latest book is “The Instant Wine Connoisseur, 3d edition”. He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and wine products internationally. Please send your comments to:mervynhecht@yahoo.com.

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The Re-View on Santa Monica Daily Press

Fig at the Miramar

Some restaurants are so busy that they don’t need to advertise, and really don’t want more people to come in than they already get. I suspect that FIG, in the Miramar hotel at the corner of Ocean and Wilshire, is like that. The food is so good, the setting so beautiful, and the happy hour so affordable, that people flock to it. And having one of the hottest bars in town as part of the hotel doesn’t hurt either.

You begin to get a feeling for how spectacular this restaurant is if you look at the reviews on the internet. Ninety-nine percent rave about what they love about the restaurant and the rare review that is not a 5-star has little in the way of criticism.

I’ve been taking out of town guests there for years, even before chef Garcia, now long gone, made a name for himself there. Chefs there change regularly (I don’t think they even have one on duty right now) but somehow they are able to continue to serve very good food.

About two years ago they added a wood burning stove, which is the kind of cooking I really love. In addition to the great pizzas cooked in it (where else can you get a lamb sausage pizza?), they grill broccoli, shishito peppers, and wood-roasted beets. Then there is the famous bread balloon with various middle eastern dips, plus chicken breasts, salmon, and hanger steaks. And that’s just for lunch—there’s lots more at dinner.

Among my favorites for dinner is the Charred Octopus, Asparagus in a béarnaise sauce, and the wood grilled Broccoli in a spicy garlic aioli. There are about a dozen dinner dishes, but two that stand out as hard to find elsewhere is the slow roasted Savoy cabbage with tomato fondue and pine nuts, and the wood grilled whole fish.

The indoor-outdoor section near the pool is really lovely. The bar, if you can find a seat, not only serves the usual drinks, but they have cheese and charcuterie that is outstanding.

And finally, don’t pass up the wine list. Even the “wines by the glass” list, which includes bottle prices, is far superior to most restaurants in Santa Monica. The addition of Prosecco is very up to date. I’m very fond of the Sancerre (Domaine Moroeux) and Vermentino (Rocca di Montenassi) for whites. Offering three different Rose wines by the glass is certainly a plus, especially sitting out on the patio on a nice summer day. And among the six reds offered by the glass are six different varieties including a pinot noir, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lebanese Syrah (I could probably do without that one) and Perrin family Rhone style (my favorite) and a Napa Bordeaux Blend from Trefethen.

Even more exciting is the 8-page complete wine list, with the superb idea of listing a good selection of bottles at $50. I love that idea and wish more restaurants would copy it.

My regular readers know how picky I am with food and wine, and so overly critical. But frankly, there is little if anything to criticize here. This is about as good as it gets—especially at the happy hour, if you can get in.

Fig at the Miramar

(310) 319-3111

Business website figsantamonica.com

101 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90401

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Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after law. In 1988, he began writing restaurant reviews and books. His latest book is “The Instant Wine Connoisseur, 3d edition” He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and wine products internationally. Please send your comments to:mervynhecht@yahoo.com.

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