Fia. Oh Fia. These three letters could stand for “food is amazing” but, as it is, it’s short for Fiacre, the Latin god of gardens. An apt name for the restaurant Fia in Santa Monica, which, as it describes itself, is truly a “garden oasis”. A small alleyway leads from busy Wilshire Boulevard straight to the outdoor patio of Fia. And what a sight to behold, especially at night. On the multi-tiered patio, wooden tables and chairs stand under trees, softly lit by string lights. On the bottom level, the bar stands tall and proud on soft sand-coloured gravel. Above it, a balcony with more tables overlooking the patio. The atmosphere is enchanting, cozy, romantic.
Fia’s indoor space is full of charm as well. Entering through a large room with exposed brick walls, more wooden tables and an old carpet, you walk up either towards a dining room arranged like a library or towards the indoor bar, The Desmond. A room for private parties is also available in the wooden house opposite the main building.
A brand new restaurant, Fia had been opened for barely 4 weeks when the friends I had met in Charleston three years ago and I went there for dinner. Michelin starred chef Brendan Collins blends Italian – and French – cuisine with California inspiration for simple but scrumptious dishes. I still salivate at the memory of the grilled corn on the cob laying on its bed of truffled mascarpone and brown butter truffle sauce. Same goes with the Baja style whole grilled dorade royale and the black cod with beurre de Paris, sauteed spinach and pumpkin seeds.
Service was great and my friends and I had a wonderful meal. In fact, we were having such a nice time that we were amongst the last guests to leave on that Saturday night. The next morning, as we were looking for a place for brunch, we all admitted we wanted to return to Fia for their inaugural brunch. Once more, the food was fantastic with a special mention to the southern fried chicken and biscuits with vinegar slaw and to the shakshuka. Again, we didn’t see the time go by. In consequence, our plans to visit the Griffith Observatory before my friends returned home? Meh. We’ll save them for another get-together.
Fia’s cocktail list is designed by Vincenzo Marianella, who, according to articles I’ve read, is at the origin of the craft cocktail movement in Los Angeles. Over my three meals at Fia – yes three (I couldn’t leave LA without returning to this gem of a restaurant on my very last night) – I tasted several of his creations; most contained Italian spirits or ingredients in keeping with Fia’s Italian inspiration.
Amateurs of fruity cocktails will enjoy the Adelaide, a combination of gin, fresh lime, chamomile-ginger syrup, blackberries, fresh basil and sparkling wine. The Friuli Fizz, a twist on the Ramos Gin Fizz, with gin, amaro tosolini, cream, egg white and soda was a great accompaniment to my brunch on Sunday. One of my friends equally enjoyed her Sorrento Spritz mixing vino chinato, St Germain liqueur and sparkling wine.
Finally, on my last dinner at Fia, I had a Wild Horses, a stronger drink containing Gra’it grappa, IPA – tonka – coriander, fresh lemon and plum. Served over ice, it is however quite refreshing and goes down smoothly. I especially enjoyed the use of plum juice which I had never had in cocktails before. It adds a tartness to the cocktail which I found pleasant and original.