FICOA: Unique Tasting Menu is a Moving Experience

Toronto foodies love tasting menu experiences. It’s often where a chef can really showcase their skills, techniques and creativity. We recently visited Chef Gerry Quintero’s FICOA on College Street and left completely in awe with the flavourful dishes, the unique cocktails, and the attentive staff. This is one gem we wish we could keep to ourselves. But, it deserves all the turning turn heads.

FICOA is situated along the busy College Street just west of Euclid.  The 20-seater is casual and relaxed rather than a more formal setting. But don’t let that fool you! This tasting menu is described as an “unexpected sensory dining experience” and that it is! And part of the experience is moving from space to space. For me, it was also reminiscent of when our parents entertained at home. We began the night with cocktails along with hot and cold “snacks” in a cosy living room like setting. Then, we moved into the main dining area for the bigger bites.

FICOA: Unique Tasting Menu is a Moving Experience

“Sometimes you’re sitting down for three to four hours for a tasting menu and you’re in the same place,” says Quintero. “It has the same light and same room aroma. I think it’s important that you move around for this experience.”

Quintero’s menu leans in to what is in season locally as he creates and tweaks a fresh menu each week. EACH WEEK. With asparagus just coming into season here we were lucky to have that added onto our tasting adventure right at the last minute. His are cooked to perfection with the right consistency and crunch.

“I’m inspired in the moment. Things that make sense for me in flavours and that I think are kind of exciting. You will always find lots of snacks in the beginning. Like, when you get to Grandma’s house and indulge in everything,” said Quintero. “And you always find that there’s a feast component to the main course because I find it really important to interact with food and be able to like break bread with friends.”

Quintero is not new to the Toronto food scene and he’s one of the kindest and full of heart chefs (read: no attitude, all gratitude). Born in Monterrey, Mexico, Quintero was surrounded by vibrant flavours. He was raised in a vegetarian household and began creating his own dishes at the young age of just five. By the time he was ten years old, he was cooking alongside his grandfather cooking meat dishes like arrachera and cabrito. When his family moved to Canada he began his formal studies in Culinary Management at Humber College. While he was still studying he caught the attention of a catering kitchen and quickly became their sous chef.

FICOA: Unique Tasting Menu is a Moving Experience

When Quintero graduated he worked at several kitchens. In the past 15 years, he worked at Scarpetta, Yours Truly, Torito and Rosalinda here in Toronto. He has a passion for exploring different cultures, flavours and techniques in the kitchen becoming obsessed with unique flavour combinations. His own travels served as inspiration including staging at BoLan in Thailand and as chef at Linda Modern Thai here in Toronto.

He has also developed several food concepts through ALMA+GILS as well as serving as consultant to several restaurants in the city. You may also recognize him as a competitor in season one of the Food Network’s series Firemasters.

In his newest endeavour, FICOA, Quintero’s dishes are inspired by Toronto’s multicultural landscape — something our city is very well known for.  And his belief in zero-waste is also ingrained in this concept. Quintero aims to use every part of every ingredient sourced from produce to meats. Techniques he’s known for also include fermentation, whole animal butchery, and dry ageing.

His approach to cooking also means sourcing from sustainable and as local as possible. Farmers and suppliers will keep him in-the-know about what’s coming into the season and he’ll explore how to best incorporate them into the menu.

The name, FICOA, is reminiscent of a street lined with lemons, grapefruits and mandarin oranges in Ecuador. Which also serves and inspiration to the overall theme to Quintero’s signature tasting menu. On the night we visited, the menu had hints of citrus. “I think it’s important to find like a storyline that you can string together throughout the meal from beginning to end. I’ll try to find the one common aspect of the meal.”

Quintero tells us that having only 20 seats currently means they can give guests the best possible experience. “It’s important for us that you feel special and that we’re paying attention. We will take the time to make your experience unique.”

FICOA: Unique Tasting Menu is a Moving Experience

There is also an opportunity to have a dining membership. Quintero explains that this concept was something discovered in California and was quite intrigued by its success. By offering a membership, it would provide loyal diners an even more bespoke experience. The team will take note of what you’ve enjoyed, likes and dislikes, beyond just allergies, to ensure that each visit is unique and as captivating as the first. Maybe you’ve really enjoy duck? or that Celeriac Truffle soup? They’ll keep notes of how much you’ve raved.

Members will also have the opportunity to try out new dishes, wines, and cocktails in advance. Also, guests who opt for a membership will be asked a series of questions to build their profile. So, when they come in for their next meal everything is taken care. No need to worry about reiterating allergies or preferences or even pacing of the evening  for the most discerning of guests. As much as we all want to know about the restaurants and chefs, they in turn would like to get to know you.

But not everyone can afford the time of a three or four hour long tasting menu experience. To accommodate this, FICOA also offer a  “Neighbourhood Menu” that isn’t so time consuming. And if you’re looking for an after work stop in with less commitment (we see you), FICOA is open for walk in service with a limited bar menu.

The cocktail program ties in with the menu and keeps in line with featuring what is in season to complement the dishes. We had a chance to try both alcohol and non-alcohol creations that were all outstanding. Brandon the bar manager also presses fresh juices for the drinks that are highly worth trying.

The restaurant will probably feel like it is evolving at every visit and that’s done with purpose. “Evolution is where I want it to be. I want people to see the restaurant evolve,” says Quintero. There are a lot of interesting tweaks coming including the addition of a wine cellar that will also become another space to enjoy the moving tasting menu.

FICOA is located at 585 College Street. Chef Gerry Quintero Signature Tasting Menu is available Wednesdays to Saturdays. More info here.

What was on the menu when we visited? Every dish was a standout. Each presented beautifully and full of personalities liken to a family gathering with so much to talk about. It’s a reunion that makes your heart swell with love. Keep in mind that Chef Quintero changes the menu often with tweaks to some customer favourites along with what is in season.

FICOA: Unique Tasting Menu is a Moving Experience

Welcome Snacks:

  • Celeriac Truffle soup
  • Duck Farce
  • Crispy Lion’s Mane
  • Truffle Summer Sausage
  • Baby King and Poblano
  • Scoby Ceviche
  • H.I. Kanpachi, cilantro oil, and wild scallion
  • Barbacoa mezza luna
  • Best part of a tamal, Mole Almendrado

The Feast:

  • Arthur, ON, ‘Losing’ Duck with Morita BBQ sauce
  • PEI Rib Eye, Ramp Bone Marrow Cream
  • Leaf Rice


  • Freeze made with Seabuckthorn Horchata, Vanilla, Champagne Vinegar
  • Foie Buñuelos, mandarins


About Sonya Davidson 937 Articles
Covering events, openings and all the deliciousness in Toronto.