Figue: Feeding the Desert’s Hunger for Quality Dining
By Marissa Willman

It’s pronounced “Fee-gue,” like league, but owner Lee Morcus says “fig” is
fine, too.
That’s because the restaurateur’s latest dining concept isn’t hung up on
pretention. Instead, it’s focused on a purely Mediterranean experience.
“We want to take people away for two hours a day,” Morcus said. “This is a
place where body, mind, heart and spirit walk away nourished.”
Mediterranean influence can be seen in every detail of the restaurant, from
the carefully crafted menu to the rustic interior to the 150-year-old imported olive
trees that line the property.
“It’s one of the oldest cultures of the world, and that deserves a great deal of
respect and love,” Morcus said.
To that end, no expense was spared in bringing quality to all aspects of the
restaurant. The couches are made of real leather. The Italian-imported rotisserie
burns only charcoal or wood. The fish is wild-caught, not farmed. And the meat?
Organic and grass-fed, coming only from small-time purveyors like Cook Pigs Ranch
in Temecula.
“We’re all more aware of what we’re putting into our bodies,” Morcus said.
“We all want to do things that add life to our years and years to our lives.”
It all ties into the mantra that adorns the restaurant’s menus: Find the
shortest, simplest way between Earth, the hands and the mouth.
Morcus is a familiar face in the Coachella Valley restaurant scene, having
built the Kaiser Group restaurant empire (which owns Jackalope Ranch, Hog’s
Breath Inn and Kaiser Grille, to name a few) with his father in the early ‘90s.
Before opening a number of dining staples in the Coachella Valley, Morcus
grew up in Colorado. In his youth, Morcus spent his days in his grandfather’s
grocery store and nearby farm. It was there that Morcus experienced terms like
“organic” and “grass-fed” as a way of life rather than a dining trend.
Today, Morcus is bringing this way of life to the desert. Although Figue is a
solo venture unaffiliated with Kaiser Group, Morcus remains hands-on with the
family business.
“This was about me doing something distinct and 100 percent my vision,”
Morcus said. “It was about a need for a creative outlet, and to be able to make it
great without compromise.”
Figue features seven different dining experiences, ranging from communal
tables to more private dining. At the charcuterie bar, patrons can chat as they watch
the cured meats being prepared behind the counter. In the living room lounge,
leather seats invite guests to sit back with a plate of kibbe (Lebanese meatballs
made of lamb and bulgur wheat) and a glass of Spanish wine. And in the white, high-
ceiling dining room, diners can opt for their own tables, where they can enjoy an
intimate dinner of provencale beef daube (tender Kobe beef cheek on saffron
risotto) and gnocchi tocco di carne (potato dumplings with pork and porcini sauce).
Together, spaces like the blue-walled lounge and white dining room weave together
in an homage to the shores of Santorini.

The Mediterranean-influenced menu is led by Executive Chef Francois de
Melogue, whose passion for cooking can be seen in both his 2,000-volume cookbook
collection and the delicately crafted plates, both large and small, that he has created
for Figue. Chef de Melogue even handpicks fresh ingredients at local farmers’
markets each week, ensuring everything served at Figue is as fresh as possible.
The menu is split into six sections, including a charcuterie menu, small plates
and big plates. Everything is designed to be shared, though diners are free to bend
the rules.
“We’ll even serve you a full dinner at the bar or lounge,” Morcus said. “What
am I going to do? Tell you, ‘No’?”
Well, no. Because it’s not about pretention – it’s about a purely
Mediterranean experience.

Figue Mediterranean
47-474 Washington Street, La Quinta
(760) 698-9040