We were visiting Sherif’s parents in the south Jersey area a couple of weeks ago, and decided to head to Philadelphia for a day of sight-seeing because the weather was so lovely and quinessentially ‘fall’. We spent a few hours scouring Kelly Drive for scenic picture opportunities and, inspired by the orange, red and yellow we were seeing everywhere, took some gorgeous pictures of the trees and leaves. The picture below was taken in the south Jersey area, even before we embarked on our scenic walk on Kelly Drive!
After a day of walking around, we got really hungry! None of us knew of any good spots to eat in Philly, so I shot a text to a friend who grew up in the area for some tips. I told her my location, and asked if there are any authentic and interesting restaurants to try nearby. My only requirements were that it would be an authentic restaurant (that is not Chinese); she highly recommended a Moroccan place called Figs, in the Fairmount neighborhood (2501 Meredith Street), which was about a mile away from where we were on Kelly Drive. High-quality Middle Eastern restaurants aren’t yet ubiquitious in the States, but there are a few gems that are comparable to chic Parisian establishments. I’m always on the lookout for those places, and always eager to review them for midEATS if I’m satisfied with the experience. When my friend said ‘Moroccan’, I got really excited, because I had been craving a juicy leg of lamb all day … and I couldn’t wait to find out if it was on the menu!
Figs Restaurant: A Review of the Decor & Ambiance
Figs looks ordinary from the outside, with a large maroon awning displaying the name of the restaurant, two sets of wrought-iron seats and tables, and a hard-to-miss ‘Open’ Banner on the front of the corner-hugging exterior. Since the weather was beautiful, we elected to sit outside at first, not realizing that half an hour later, the sun would set and a chilly breeze would greet us. Our kind waiter, who also happens to be the owner of Figs, Mustapha Rouissiya, cheerfully welcomed us into the warm restaurant a bit later, making room for us under a colorful Moroccan light fixture.
The ambiance of the space is warm and welcoming, albeit intimate: it probably seats no more than 30 individuals at a time. And if there were any words to describe the decor, the first would be ‘authentic’; Moroccan-inspired curtains, paintings and light fixtures tastefully ornamented the restaurant, giving it an aura of regality despite the intimite space.
Figs Restaurant: An Authentic Array of Moroccan Delicacies
Ready to devour my meal, I eagerly eyed the menu, noticing mouth-watering appetizers like Hummus and Applewood Smoked Salmon Pizza ($9), Baked Brie in Clay Pot – made with honey, lavender and toasted almonds ($5.50), and Roasted Beet and Haricot Verts Salad ($7). The table reached a concensus that we’d like to order an appetizer, and we decided on the Eggplant & Goat Cheese Lasagna (No Pasta) ($7.25) and the Mediterranean Tapas with Hummus, Baba Ghanoush and Stuffed Grape Leaves served with Grilled Flat Bread ($7.50).
The appetizers were delicious: the grape leaves were moist, minty and flavorful, but I only had half of one because I’m trying to limit my intake of white rice; the hummus was spiced with a hint of cayenne; and the baba ghannoush was my absolute favorite – I could distinctly taste the roasted eggplant in the tahini mix. The baked eggplant with goat cheese was quite savory as well, but the cheese was a bit heavy for my taste. Of course, you know I was attracted to it because it is pasta-free – any way to cut down on the refined carbs gets a nod of approval from me!
For the main meal, there were many great options on the menu, including Crab Stuffed Filet of Sole in a Mixed Mushroom Cream Sauce ($21), Crispy Duck Breast ($19.50), Braised Lamb Shank Tagine ($23), Seafood Risotto ($24), and Mediterranean Vegetable Plate Served Over Sundried Tomato Couscous ($17) being only a few of the options. Of course, when I spotted the lamb shank tagine, my stomach growled in anticipation, knowing immediately that I would order it. Sherif ordered the crispy duck breast. We eagerly awaited our meals while I took some more pictures of the stunning decor.
Check out this Moroccan floor lamp with its top shaped like a lantern! I’m on a mission to find one for my house:
The food finally came and I was really excited to say the least!
The lamb was juicy and flavorful (probably because it was made in a tagine!) and the couscous with veggies gave a nice background flavor to the hearty dish. I was pleasantly satiated at the end of it, having satisfied my lamb craving for the day. I tried some of Sherif’s duck and it was tasty as well, though not as satisfying to me as the lamb. I particularly liked the sauteed spinach and the apple honey fig demi glaze that came with the duck dish: the sweet-tangy taste of the sauce meshed well with the spinach and the duck. The bread pudding had an interesting flavor, but I only managed to eat a couple of bites because it looked like it was most likely made with white flour.
As for dessert, I was really intrigued by both the fig and pistachio homemade icecream flavors; but alas, I was too stuffed to try either. That means there’s a next time for this place, and I’ll be sure to report back!
Overall, it was a great dining experience. I love reviewing authentic restaurants because reviewing gives me an excuse to have heightened senses from start to finish – I notice more details that way, and the subtleties in flavors are more pronounced to my taste buds. After all, it makes little sense going all the way to the city to eat at a fancy restaurant and gobbling up the food without taking in the scents, sights and flavors of the place, right? Whether you live in Philadelphia and haven’t yet discovered this Moroccan gem, or if you are just visiting as we were and want to grab a bite in a charming, aunthentic Middle Eastern restaurant, Figs is your place.
Here’s one last picture of the Moroccan lantern floor lamp for you to feast your eyes … I just love that lamp.