Mike Lata’s farm-driven Charleston restaurant consistently delivers culinary satisfaction. This year, Robert Stehling from cross-town Hominy Grill won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast. It just as easily could have been the sure-fire Lata.
Citrus Salad ($9) was simple but balanced and effective, combining soft crumbles of ricotta salata, walnuts, radish, greens tossed with Tuscan olive oil and segments of Satsuma tangerines, blood oranges and grapefruit.
Almost every entrée on Chef Lata’s powerhouse menu sounded amazing. Strube Ranch Wagyu Bistro Steak ($27) was as good as it sounded. The buttery steak was sliced on the bias, topped with tapenade, plated with cubes of sautéed sweet potato and salad verte tossed in house vinaigrette.
Another couldn’t-miss dish was the Crispy Caw Caw Creek Pork Shoulder ($27), plated on kabocha squash puree and served with a salad of tat soi (an obscure green), roasted grapes and pine nuts that cut the richness of the tender hog brick.
FIG always features seasonal Vegetables for the Table. Anson Mills is a South Carolina purveyor best known for their superior stone ground grits, and their farro turned out to be similarly sensational. FIG’s Farro Piccolo Risotto ($7) hosted minced broccoli and nearly undetectable country ham. The Sauteed Fall Greens ($7) were Swiss chard tossed with chile and sliced garlic.
We were in a hurry to attend a College of Charleston basketball game down Meeting Street, but we still found time to order a sensational Meyer Lemon Tart ($7) topped with a dollop of honeyed Mascarpone.
After yet another terrific dinner at FIG, it would come as no surprise if Mike Lata claims the Southeast crown at next year’s James Beard Awards.