With three locations in San Diego — Liberty Station, Hillcrest and Pacific Beach — we decided it was time to check out Fig Tree Cafe. Since Hillcrest is the closest to where we live, it made sense to try this one first. My first impression of the restaurant was that it’s casual, yet tastefully decorated.
We arrived at 6pm on a Saturday and it was quiet, with only a few seated tables. They have two outdoor patios, one in the front of the restaurant and one to the right side of the entrance. There are bottles of wine all along the walkway to the hostess station and more along the walls of the restaurant.
Our server was very knowledgeable — not only did she know small details about the wines we inquired about, but she gave us suggestions on which ones would pair well with the entrees we were considering. I chose a red wine by the name of “Super Tuscan” by Banfi Centine which we learned is one of the oldest wineries in Tuscany. Scott ordered a Bard’s gluten-free malt beer and she suggested a light Pinot Noir – Canyon Road — to go with the flat iron steak entree he ordered for his main dish.
We were impressed with the many gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan dishes on the menu. The best part is that they mark each dish with a GF, V or Veg to make things easy for those with diet restrictions. The menu also mentions the use of only the freshest local produce and natural ingredients. In 2011, they received a WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals) award for offering humane-raised menu options.
Their large selection of appetizers makes it tough to choose, because they all sound delicious. We settled on a stuffed portobello mushroom with sautéed spinach, fontina cheese and truffle emulsion — which was heavenly — and a brie bruschetta. Usually we find cooked spinach to have a slight bitter taste, but this dish was anything but bitter. The bruschetta came with toasted focaccia bread, a slice of brie, thinly sliced green apples, diced chives and drizzled with honey. There was not a crumb left on either of our plates.
The flat iron steak entree we ordered was a special for the evening and came with a saffron risotto, sweet peas, blue crab meat and topped with a red wine, tomato reduction, shallots and garlic sauce.
Our second entree — tequila lobster ravioli — came with a chipotle mascarpone cilantro sauce. The mascarpone was a nice touch and while this lobster ravioli is a heavy dish, it was tough to stop eating it — even after we were full.
All in all, I highly recommend this restaurant. I’m told their brunch very popular and I would love to come back for happy hour to taste a larger portion of the appetizers on the menu.
Fig Tree Cafe
416 University Avenue
Hillcrest, CA 92103