My parents retired several years ago to La Quinta (about 30 or so minutes from Palm Springs), so I'm out there at least a few times per year. And while it's typically easy to find a restaurant with a beautiful outdoor dining area, I find it much harder to get a really good meal, particularly one with anything that could be described as contemporary. And while there's Asian food, there's nothing I'd really call worthy.
But one place definitely worth talking about is the very recently opened Figue Mediterranean Restaurant in La Quinta. My parents made the dinner reservation without my input, but in reviewing their website, one thing immediately caught my attention. The chef at Figue, Francois de Melogue, was previously the chef at Pili.Pili here in Chicago, a restaurant I loved but now miss terribly. He was also a chef at The Bakery here in Chicago.
In any event, Chef Melogue seems to be putting out much of the same outstanding food he did at Pili.Pili. In fact, I might have enjoyed this meal more than any at Pili.Pili.
As for food, we shared a few appetizers: a terrific Margherita pizza, which offered a beautifully charred crust and excellent quality fresh tomatoes and basil. There was also an excellent Mediterrano salad - feta, red onion, red pepper, olives, pine nuts and date leather (like a fruit roll-up in texture) - which had a nice sweet, salty, briny flavor combination and great quality ingredients. My favorite appetizer was either the pizza or the seared scallops served in a delicious carrot-saffron sauce.
One other item on the menu that really caught my attention was the chickpea frites served as an accompaniment to the chicken tagine dish. One of my very favorite items at Pili.Pili was the panisse (i.e., chickpea frites). I asked if we could get them as a side, and they happily obliged. Interestingly, the owner was making rounds, and when he came over, he mentioned that no one had ever asked for the chickpea frites on their own, and he was curious what led me to want them as a side. I explained that I loved them at Pili.Pili and I knew the chef was from there. Shortly thereafter, Chef Melogue came over and said hello and was very appreciative of the kind words and talked about how he's essentially recreating and improving upon what he did at Pili.Pili in Chicago at Figue.
More importantly, the panisse were every bit as great as I remember them being at Pili.Pili - thick, with a soft interior yet lightly crisp exterior, and with just the perfect seasoned chickpea flavor. I suggested they make these a separate item on the menu - they're just so addictive.
crappy cell phone pic of the chickpea frites (panisse)
But to simply focus on the panisse would be a disservice to what they're doing at Figue. For my main course, I had the Fideua and it was also terrific. A very generous portion of perfectly cooked lobster, along with perfectly cooked shrimp and clams, rouille, all atop a saffron scented pasta.
crappy cell phone pic of the Fideua
I also tasted some of my dad's gnocchi, which were light as a feather, and served with a delicious and rich pork and porcini ragu. Overall, a really outstanding meal and a must visit if you're in the area - a very short drive from the La Quinta resort and the Indian Wells resort, and less than 15 minutes from the Marriott resort.
So although I continue to miss Pili.Pili, I'm happy that I'll once again be able to enjoy Chef Melogue's food, and probably a few times a year.Figue Mediterranean Restaurant
47474 Washington St.
La Quinta, CA 92253