By Steve Virgen
11:44 AM PST, December 24, 2013
A man with a big smile held a microphone and spoke in a thick, French accent amid a party scene.
"Wehl-comb to Feeg n' Oh-leev," he said.
Newport Beach seemed just as thrilled to welcome Fig & Olive founder Laurent Halasz and his restaurant at Fashion Island last week during a special opening event.
Halasz quickly introduced chefs Pascal Lorange and Serges Gouloumes and Fig & Olive President Greg Galy, while expressing gratefulness and excitement.
It was also a nice touch that Halasz had the mayor, Richard Galy, from his hometown of Mougins, France, in attendance. He was introduced, as was Rush Hill, the incoming 2014 Newport Beach mayor.
I was in the background, taking it all in, a different world for me to be sure.
You might be asking: Why is a sports guy writing about a fine-dining French restaurant?
Answer: I was meeting a friend and source for another story.
Fortunately, I was invited to such a great place. It's an impressive restaurant.
Fig & Olive will be going up against a number of dining places nearby, but its biggest challenge early on might be dealing with so many reservation requests.
Samantha Heart, director of special events for Fig & Olive, expects reservations to be in demand in the coming weeks. On Thursday night, plenty of people were visiting the 12,000-square-foot restaurant that seats up to 330 diners.
But the majority of the seats were taken out to make room for a cocktail party scene. One dining area was for VIP guests, with funds going to charity.
Halasz and his team made sure this special opening covered all the bases, with drinks flowing and complimentary hors'dourves aplenty.
Several in the community mingled, as dance music boomed. Professional models were also part of the festive atmosphere. They stood on top of platforms, showing off the latest fashions.
Peggy Tanous, a "Real Housewives of Orange County" star from Newport Beach, was in attendance. She usually is paid for appearances, but I think she came to this one just to check it out.
"I really like it," she said of the restaurant, which officially opened Friday. "It's something different and I think it will be received well."
STEVE VIRGEN is sports editor of the Daily Pilot, Huntington Beach Independent and Coastline Pilot.