Alibi V.24 No.16 • April 16-22, 2015 

Restaurant Review

Fork & Fig

A new eatery on Menaul goes for the hip & casual

NM reuben
NM reuben
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
Drive east on Menaul until you’re just past Chipotle, and hang a right. Tucked in between Urban Mattress and the Valero station, you’ll find a hip, new casual dining option, and you’re going to want to check this out. Fork & Fig is the brainchild of Deming native Josh Kennon. Kennon trained at Le Cordon Bleu, honed his expertise in restaurant kitchens and private chef gigs in Los Angeles and Phoenix, and finally joined the open market in Albuquerque when he opened Fork & Fig back in January. Kennon even finished the eatery’s interior himself, including making the sturdy, rustic/sophisticated tables.

The menu is compact, and Kennon leaves no doubt as to his food philosophy. “Sauce is everything!” he says, when I mention the way each dish includes a specific, often unexpected sauce. The gentle black garlic aioli is unquestionably the magic touch elevating my beefalo burger on a brioche bun ($14) from routine menu item to olfactory opus. The beefalo burger is a mix of beef and buffalo meats, grilled to Maillard perfection and nestled into a rich, tender brioche with cheddar, bacon, green onion, tomato and kale, along with just the right amount of sauce to join the different flavor directions. Black garlic, created in a weeks-long heating process which caramelizes zingy aggressive cloves into mellow fruity-sweet gems, powers the simple egg/olive oil/lemon emulsion of the aioli. Please trust the chef; he knows his business—kale really does work on this burger.

The menu is compact, and Kennon leaves no doubt as to his food philosophy. “Sauce is everything!” he says, when I mention the way each dish includes a specific, often unexpected sauce.

On the ribeye sammy ($14), the creamy chimichurri sauce draws the broad flavors of the smoked gouda and caramelized onion together with the contrasting bitterness of mixed greens and the mellow backdrop of a toothsome ciabatta bun. Yes, this sandwich is worth the price, and you’re not going to want to share it with anyone. The “grown-up” grilled cheese ($10), with four cheeses, tomato, tomato-fig relish and bacon on Hawaiian bread, is way beyond the quick and dirty comfort food of your youth. The sweetness and acidity of fruits balance the richness of the cheese and bacon.

Another surprising combo that hits pay dirt is the NM reuben ($12). It’s a complicated sandwich: pastrami, shredded pork, green chile slaw, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on marbled rye. Deli purists may be dubious, but trust me; try this sandwich. It’s got the most satisfying mouthfeel, each bite offering a slightly different first-among-equals of the flavor components.

Cojito corn
Cojito corn
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
The four salads are generous and colorful, and make complete meals without needing a side. Citrus salad ($8) is on the sweet side, with mixed greens, berries, orange supremes, candied walnuts, goat cheese and a blood orange vinaigrette tossed together. The chopped salad ($9) goes the whole spectrum from the assertive brightness of arugula through roasted corn, diced tomato, pepitas, parmesan, couscous, cherries, and ends with the savory intrigue of avocado-pesto dressing. Add grilled chicken to this ($4) for extra satisfaction. The grilled salad ($8)—romaine, tomato, sweet corn, sweet peppers and green onion, all grilled, chilled, dressed with cilantro-basil vinaigrette—goes well with cooked-to-order salmon ($6).

Sandwiches and burgers include a side, and if you bully your dining companions (as I did) into ordering different sides so everyone can try the options, you’ll be glad you did. The cotija corn, a roasted half-cob drizzled with blended cotija cheese, then sprinkled with cotija crumbles and smoked paprika, was a particular crowd-pleaser. Grilled zucchini is redolent of herbs, marked almost-black from the grill and cooked to that ideal tenderness, just shy of crunch. Potato gnocchi is likely to be a love-or-hate item; the hand-formed dumpling-type noodles are cut to bite size and sautéed and served with a flavorful oil dressing, but are perhaps slightly doughier than some care for. They are, however, the ideal morsel to dip in the various sauces and dressings on your table for taste-testing purposes. Green chile slaw has such a fresh, crunchy brightness about it that you may find yourself wishing to duplicate it in your own cooking (the highest compliment).

The daily soup offerings are appealing and unexpected combos, such as prime rib and grilled zucchini soup, or four peppers soup. Desserts are not listed on the menu, but the panna cotta is about as rich and creamy as you’ll find, not overly sweet and big enough to share, especially if you’re as satiated as we were. The drinks menu offers a selection of high-quality soft options, including craft sodas, coffee and teas, with the iced tea a notable standout. I believe I may find myself at Fork & Fig over the summer just for the teas. Kennon brings in custom-blended Magnolia Street Tea from Mainstreet Mixes in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Celebration black tea is especially memorable, heady with spices, softened by fruits, and so good you might ponder nabbing the whole pitcher.

Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
The restaurant seats 40, including a scatter of unshaded patio tables. More than shade, though, the patio really needs some kind of wind break. Discussing future developments, Kennon mentions upcoming wine and beer offerings, which really will complete the gourmet picnic feel of the place, and round out the dinner menu nicely. The staff is friendly and efficient, the tableware is unfussy and largely disposable, and the food does not disappoint. Oh, and don’t be fooled by the eight or so parking slots in the front being full; there is plenty of parking behind the building.

Fork & Fig


6904 Menaul NE
881-5293
forkfig.com

Hours: 11am to 9pm Tuesday through Thursday
11am to 10pm Friday and Saturday
11am to 6pm Sunday
Closed Monday
Mood: Foodie casual
Range: Under $20
Eye candy: Open kitchen and dining counter looking in

The Alibi recommends: NM reuben, cotija corn, iced tea and enough companions to order all the sides