Blending sustainable with downright daring dining, Ficoa exists to excite. Standard tasting menus start and finish in one spot. You may stop for a drink at the bar, but that’s basically it. A meal can feel like a marathon, in slow motion. But tasting menus are also the best way to enjoy the daily imports that the Chef covets most. That is precisely Chef Gerry Quintero’s (Rosalinda, Yours Truly, Linda Modern Thai) ethos. And he finally has a runway to do it.

Ficoa Forges a New Bold Path for Modern-Day Dining

To say that Ficoa wasn’t what I expected is an understatement. Slashing 40+ seats from the previous spot (Il Covo) to preserve a more customized approach to service is the first signal that Ficoa is doing things a little differently. It’s not stuffy or a place to just be seen. Dining here is so much more than just eating.

ficoa cocktails
Guests are first welcomed to the 70s-style rec room to unwind and enjoy nibbles and cocktails

You feel immediately at home at Ficoa. The staff are warm and welcoming. The space is filled with fresh flowers and super comfortable banquette seating. But first, you’re whisked away to the whimsical salon to gather and enjoy the first courses of many to come.

ficoa tasting menu
Chef Gerry Quintero’s courts snacks and soups as part of his generous tasting menu

Conversation flows easily when you’re not confined to the same space all night. Soaking up the scenery, and vintage photographs offers an opportunity to relax. Cocktails, like a Negroni or a glass of Prosecco, enable the process. Brandon, the bar manager crafts fresh pressed juices for many of Ficoa‘s beverages.

Tracking each offering is part of the fun. Celeriac Truffle Soup with fermented chili receives a tableside garnish of brie and black garlic foam. It’s quite honestly the most delicious soup I’ve ever had. Exerting control over the size of each portion, Chef Gerry steers clear of overdoing it.

We also loved the Crispy Lion’s Mane Mushrooms, flash-fried and delicate. Duck Farce, duck leg mousse rolled back into the skin showcases Chef’s pledge to use the whole animal. It’s all wildly tasty.

Ficoa is a Feast for the Senses and Soul

After sampling the rotating snack menu, which we polished off in sync with our drinks, we were whisked away to the dining room. The simple effort of changing your surroundings ushers in a new wavelength and energy. Brandon then brings his fresh juice blend, ginger and blueberry with fresh mint. These little invitations offer a respite from the usual over-indulgence.

Chef Gerry hails from Monterrey, Mexico, and became ‘food obsessed’ at a tender age. He is the type of Chef who would talk about food all day with unbridled enthusiasm. Where ingredients are from, what gastronomy tricks he employs, his favourite memories of his Grandmother. Each course becomes a personal invitation into his world.

The next courses unfold more of Chef’s culinary techniques and culture. Thinly sliced Hawaiian Kanpachi comes with pickled pig skin, sliced thin and frozen in liquid nitrogen, which thaws and changes while you eat. Stuffed with tender Barbacoa, a bundle of fresh Mezze Luna pasta is presented with a velvety tomato sauce and green garnish.

A last-minute delivery of the freshest Ontario Asparagus is a bonus dish. Jumbo asparagus come lightly grilled, with cilantro oil and crispy shallots. It is perfection and another display of Chef’s affection for fresh produce.

But the pride of Chef Gerry’s menu belongs to his Mole Almendrado (lead photo). Chicharrón topped tamales layer with almond mole is a highlight. Paired with a stunning Pinot Nero, a white version of a red wine, is a deliberate choice and pairs beautifully with the next courses.

A Tribute to Abuelas Everywhere

So much effort and energy has been placed in tradition. Chef Gerry insists on working with the season, and marries notes of citrus and mandarin into each course, a signature touch and connection to the owner Patricia Toro’s Ecuadorian roots.

A playful nod to her last name is offered with a Tea Ceremony cocktail that you have to experience first-hand to believe.

ficoa the freeze
This tea-based cocktail receives a tableside pour, courtesy of the bull

A palate cleanser dubbed The Freeze brings a seabuckthorn, horchata and champagne vinegar with vanilla bean. It’s somehow creamy, sweet and tangy all at once.

Ficoa Brings Excitement to Traditional Tasting Menus

A stint on the TV show Firemasters that helped sear his success is brought back to tempt Toronto further. The Feast unveils Muscovy Duck Breast basted with mushroom garum, onion jam and Morita BBQ sauce. It’s an explosive dish that brings a smoky element to tender Arthur, Ontario duck.

ficoa the feast
Beautiful dishes encapsulate a methodical approach to sustainability

A PEI Rib Eye served with the bone and a delicate broth with a note of mandarin. Bone marrow cream creates a phenomenal showstopping dish. Served with Leaf Rice, this family-style feast is perfect for sharing. You also get to select your own weapon, another tableside conversation starter.

Like Going to Grandma’s, if Grandma was a Chef

A final course might just be the best yet. I’m not a dessert person, but absolutely adored the addition of a savoury aspect to this course.

Two types of classic Buñuelos, one organically shaped – like a flour tortilla, and one formed like a flower is layered with foie gras and mandarin zest. Crispy, sweet and salty, it positively sings.

ficoa something sweet
Something Sweet- Two types of Buñuelos with foie gras nestled in between

The stagnant approach of sitting for 3+ hours through a tasting menu can be boring. Here, the team delivers on an unrivalled experience in this city. A wine cellar will be finished soon to provide even more spaces to explore.

Other notable flourishes include the invitation to join a membership program. Exclusive events, menu previews and reservation requests create a VIP program for devoted diners.

A bar menu for smaller appetites (or shorter experiences) is also on offer. Dubbed the Neighbourhood Menu, this allows for walk-ins to enjoy more a la carte options.

ficoa college street
This College Street darling is dressed to impress

One last thing. The playlist. Chef Gerry has personally curated some of his favourite techno tracks, mixed with hip-hop classics and 90s house. May not be for everyone, but this Chef marches to the beat of his own drum.

Ficoa is located at 585 College Street. Follow them @ficoa.to for more.