October 2019

The Language of Flavor: At Olive & Fig, mouthwatering cuisine is universal

Author: Barry Kaufman | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

The Mediterranean region represents a patchwork of different languages, cultures and traditions. From the sandy shores of Cyprus to the rugged terrain of Lebanon, the one unifying factor that binds together all of these ancient peoples is flavor. Cultivated through centuries as the crossroads of the world, the epicurean traditions surrounding the Mediterranean combine spices and flavors from all points of the globe into a mouthwatering tapestry of deliriously delicious food.

For the uninitiated, acclimated to the standard meat and veg of western cuisine, this cuisine offers both a learning curve and a new frontier for expanding culinary horizons. Getting over that learning curve is the first step into a delicious new world, and it’s a step that hundreds of Lowcountry diners have taken at Olive & Fig.
“We love to educate people,” said Tammy Yousif, co-owner of Olive & Fig. “I don’t want people to come in here and feel like they don’t know what they’re getting.”

It’s true that your first visit to Olive & Fig might bring with it some frantic Googling, as you search for some background on what exactly shish taouk is, for example. If that’s the case, Tammy and husband/chef Munjid are happy to guide you through the menu. For the record, shish taouk is marinated chicken or beef kebab.
“And who doesn’t know kebabs?” said Munjid with a laugh.

The exotic names on the menu might intimidate some, but once you take a closer look, you’ll realize this is the same meat and veg you’ve enjoyed for years, but prepared and spiced based on traditions that run centuries deep. The result is a dish both familiar and exotic.

“If you eat chicken and beef on the grill, you’ll find something you love here,” Tammy said. “A lot of people on their first visit will go for something like the shish taouk, and they love it.”

For some, the journey through the menu stops there with that first dish they fell in love with, quickly becoming their go-to order on return visits. This author, for example will admit to being fairly monogamous to the gyro pita and falafel appetizer. For other diners, that first dish is an introduction to a style of cuisine that you won’t find anywhere else in the Lowcountry.

“We have several people who eat here on a weekly basis,” Tammy said. “They started out trying things like kebab, but what’s brought them back are dishes like the octopus and the rack of lamb.”

As they’ve explored the menu, these regulars have made Olive & Fig their own. One always orders two baklava—one to eat, and one to take home. Another keeps his own goblet behind the bar, finding it washed and ready for his next cocktail every time.

“We want it to be a neighborhood place,” Tammy said. “Hey, I’ll happily build a shelf if everyone wants to start keeping glasses here.”

It’s easy to see why so many have embraced the diversity of offerings at Olive & Fig. Bridging the gap between Greek food and Middle Eastern cuisine, the menu gleefully dances around the Mediterranean, curating some of the most succulent dishes and preparing them with masterful skill.

Chef Munjid grew up among the culinary traditions of his native Lebanon, using the lessons learned in his mother’s kitchen as a springboard to a career that took him to London’s Royal Academy of Culinary Arts and into kitchens across the Lowcountry. His experience in kitchens around the world is only matched by his dedication to quality and hard-line stance against cutting corners that shines through in every dish.

“I have people tell me all the time, I’ve never had lamb kebab I could cut with a butter knife,” he said. “We don’t even give out steak knives, because it’s so tender.”

Look deeper into every dish and you’ll find painstakingly sourced ingredients from markets across the Southeast, chosen with a relentless passion for quality. Munjid points out that everything in the kitchen—which he prepares from memory, without recipes—could be sourced cheaper. But that just wouldn’t suit his style or his standards.

“Why would anybody want that? If I’m putting it out there as my food, I want to make sure it’s the best quality,” he said. Even with his disciplined approach to quality sourcing, you still won’t find a dish on the menu over $34. (Okay, there’s one special they run regularly that’s $38, but it’s worth every penny.)

Ultimately, a visit to Olive & Fig is about discovery. You may not have heard of a particular dish, but that’s what makes it worth exploring. Because what you’ll find is a dish built on familiar ingredients, infused with flavors that have made Mediterranean cuisine the envy of the entire world and prepared by a chef who pursues quality with relentless enthusiasm. But more important, you’ll find it at a neighborhood place that might just become your new regular go-to.


Olive & Fig Mediterranean Kitchen is located at 1533 Fording Island Rd. #326. For more information, visit https://olive-fig-mediterranean-kitchen.business.site/ or call (843) 605-4093.

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