The New Koko with Chef Michele Forgione

January 20, 2011 · 6 comments

in Restaurants

Once in a while, an opportunity arises that’s simply impossible to pass up. A few weeks ago, I was having a brief conversation on Twitter with Michele Forgione, the new chef of the trendy restaurant Koko in the Opus Hotel. I asked him when he was starting, and when we (the public) will be able to try out the re-vamped menu. Being his hospitable self, he replied “come by whenever you want!”. With an open invitation like that, how can you resist. So last week, before the official menu was revealed, before any customers had a chance to taste it, Marcella DeVincenzo (Eataliangirl.com), Mayssam Samaha (Will Travel for Food), and myself, payed chef Forgione a visit to get an exclusive taste of what everyone else was soon going to experience.

We began with grilled octopus on a bed of greens with some thinly sliced sunchokes (a.k.a. Jerusalem artichokes), and a mâche salad, drizzled with a meyer lemon vinaigrette. I have had some pretty good grilled octopus in this city, but nothing compares to this. It was so tender, it practically melted in my mouth. It truly was exquisite. What an amazing start.

Next, we had perfectly seared scallops with brown butter, shaved cauliflower, capers, and a little panele. The scallops were outstanding, and I just loved the brown butter that was drizzled over them. The panele was clearly the main attraction of the dish. A little cylinder made of chickpea flour, then lightly fried. The outside had a very thin crust, and the inside was soft and pillowy. This was REALLY good.

The following dish was a lightly smoked mackerel, topped with a salad of pine nuts, shaved carrots, and some flavorful greens, then served over an eggplant mousse. The mackerel was flaky, and perfectly seasoned. The eggplant mousse was incredible. I loved dipping the fish in it, and scooping up some greens, then eating it all together.

After that, we had porchetta di testa (head cheese) that was served underneath a wonderful salad of dandelion greens and chicory with a few tangy pickled onions and sweet red beats. The meat had little hints of rosemary, thyme, some salt, and a bit of cracked pepper. I ate most of this, as it was truly incredible. Nothing like when it’s made in house.

The next plate incorporated quail macerated in a vincotto (cooked wine) sauce with a shaved brussel sprout coleslaw sprinkled with pangrattato (breadcrumbs) and a few cipollini onions. Chef Forgione described this dish as his take on bbq chicken and coleslaw. Very whimsical replacing the chicken with quail, and fancying up coleslaw with a crispy and fresh brussel sprout salad. I loved picking up the little wings, and nibbling on them with the sweet sauce.

Then, the absolute number one dish of the night and what should be the signature dish at Koko: ricotta gnocchi with braised short rib in a simple tomato sauce, sprinkled with ricotta salata. The exact definition of simplicity. Let’s start with the gnocchi: they were soft, tender, delicate, sweet, melt in your mouth and simply amazing. The braised short rib contrasted the gnocchi in texture in the most incredible way. The ricotta salata was the saltiness in the dish that balanced the flavor of the sweet tomato sauce. Truly a memorable course.

Next, we nibbled on striped seabass accompanied by a panzanella (crunchy bread salad), and kabocha squash. I just loved this. The bass was seared very well and the skin was deliciously crispy. The Panzanella was fresh and had a lot of great textures from the crunchy bread, to the red-beet-stained parsnips.

After that, a nice thick and juicy piece of porchetta with with mustard seeds, quints, and caramelized romanesco. I loved how tender the porchetta was and how well it paired with the quints. It’s the perfect combination of sweet and savory. The romanesco was also very tasty and was a nice, well cooked vegetable on the plate.

Just when I think I couldn’t eat any more, a beautiful margret de canard perched upon a piece of firm polenta and chestnut mascarpone was placed in front of us. The duck was excellent; tender, juicy, and flavorful. The polenta was outstanding. It had a real nice thin crust on the top that I really enjoyed. The inside of it absorbed the juices from the duck and made for a great component on the plate. Even Chef Forgione was surprised at how well the chestnut mascarpone sauce went with the dish. I really liked how the nutty, sweet, and creamy puree went with the duck.

Finally, we ended with what can only be described as a brownie mille-feuille. From bottom to top: a drizzle of chocolate sauce, the most decadent brownie, a gelatin-like chocolate layer, a vanilla marshmallow mousse, then a thin layer of more dark chocolate. It was such a great end to the meal. Naturally, I ate it all.

Michele Forgione described his menu in such a profound and meaningful way, that you can taste the feeling and history of each dish in every bite. He recited stories of how part of the menu is what he remembers eating when he was growing up. He told some great stories how his grandfather taught him how to prepare salumi, and other incredible Italian meals.  These descriptions enhanced our experience with each plate. Michele is very hospitable and is always concerned about how others are enjoying the meal. In short, he is a chef who cares. Michele is never satisfied, and is always working on new ideas to improve everything. This introduction to the menu was a absolute treat. I can honestly say that this was the best meal I have ever had in this city. Even though this restaurant is a “supper club”, chef Forgione definitely emphasizes how incredible the “supper” can be. I will definitely be back, and I encourage everyone to experience the new Koko.

Koko– 8 Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC H2X 4C9, (514) 657-5656

Update: Michele Forgione is now the head chef at Osteria Venti. Read the full review here.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Marcella January 20, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Fabulous!! Now I’m hungry 🙂 When are we heading back there?

Reply

Jackson Wightman January 20, 2011 at 4:05 pm

I dub this the Week of Forgione! Dude is on no less than 3 MTL food blogs 🙂

Congrats Michele! You clearly know that the foundation of ‘buzz’ is an amazing product! Can’t wait to go to Koko!

Thanks for this post Dustin – great job 🙂

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Food Guy Montreal January 20, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Thanks Jackson! The guy deserves it. He really is THAT good.

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michele forgione January 21, 2011 at 9:20 pm

Dustin i thank you so much well written article, nice pics! We should all get together soon. Keep in touch! Ciao

Reply

Chris 'Zeke' Hand January 23, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Howdy!

How much was it? And who paid?

Reply

Food Guy Montreal January 25, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Hi Chris,

This meal was compliments of the incredible chef.

For your information, here are the prices:
Starters: $9-$16
Mains: $17-$29
Thanks for reading!

Reply

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