GOLD COAST — A new restaurant and specialty shop coming to the Gold Coast in late June is all about the olive oil.
"All our dishes except dessert are really only cooked with olive oil," said Ludo Barras, a spokesman for Fig & Olive, which currently has five locations in New York and California. "You can exchange butter and use olive oil for almost everything."
That's something Barras hopes the eatery will teach Chicagoans with the restaurant's focus on oil tastings and education.
"When the waiter arrives, we explain which olive oil we used to finish each plate," Barras said. "If you go for lunch or dinner, we have a trio of olive oils for tasting, and the waiter will go over the three kinds — we change the featured olive oils every month so they can experience different countries and different tastes.
"We also try to do as much as possible with cooking classes. ... There's a lot of things to learn," Barras said.
He hopes that trying menu items like white truffle olive oil risotto and lamb chops with rosemary garlic olive oil will help diners "realize that it's very healthy for the body and lifestyle" to cook with olive oil.
After touring the ingredient's versatility and sipping samples from a rotating oil-tasting menu, Barras hopes Chicago's foodies will stop by the restaurant's on-site shop to pick up specialty oils for home cooking.
"We have 30 different types of olive oil in our retail store that come from different countries: Spain, France, Australia," Barras said.
The first Fig & Olive to open in the Midwest, Barras said the team was drawn to both the Oak Street area's vibe, and the specific building they're leasing — the top two floors of the complex at 70-104 Oak St., totaling more than 12,000 square feet including an open-air terrace.
"The layout will be very urban: you can feel the fact that we are really in the city's center," Barras said. "With the terrace on the top, we're going to really bring the French Riviera, and Spain and Italy, into the urban look. ... We have a skylight and we're going to really bring the light and the outdoors into this space."
Like all Fig & Olive locations, the restaurant will include live olive trees imported from the same countries that supply its oils. The restaurant is set to open June 24 or 25, Barras said, and menu items range in price from $10-20 for small plates and from $22-58 for entrees.