Jill and I were honored to receive via TEXT an invitation to a special luncheon at Moto (945 W. Fulton Mkt.) featuring the wines of Quintessa, presented by Master Sommelier Larry Stone. Finding out about this event only a couple days in advance, we barely had any time to get psyched and freaked out about what we would experience. Moto.
Moto is a restaurant unlike any other. Owner and chef, Homaro Cantu is a wizard in the kitchen. He and chef Richie Farina, take both familiar and alien flavors and textures to even the advanced diner, and present them in innovative ways – through methods of delivery, unusual cooking technique and unique presentation no one has ever attempted before.
When we arrived, Chef gave the ten of us at the luncheon a tour around the restaurant. We checked out the kitchen, their indoor herb garden, the test kitchen where they film their TV show Pressure Cooker and back to the dining room. We settled into our chairs and we were off.
MS Larry Stone brought two vintages of Quintessa, a Bordeaux Blend from Rutherford in Napa, as well as four barrel samples of single vineyard Cabernet that, when blended, MAKE UP QUINTESSA. This is a totally unique opportunity to sample the different vineyards seperately before blending! So cool for the wine geek in me.
They served us courses from their actual Moto dinner menu. They mentioned that this was the first lunch they’ve ever hosted. Sorry we had to make the staff get up a little early. Chef Cantu sat down as he would join us for a good portion of the lunch. His chef de cuisine Richie Farina would be coordinating the lunch service.
First course was RIVER. A two part course. First was a mini “Bagel and caviar” dish. Two small mini everything “bagels” come spread with a thin layer of cream cheese. This is accompanied by a generous portion of caviar. Absolutely delicious.
I mean, anything with caviar is incredible but the delicate texture of the bagel and perfectly smooth cream cheese was outstanding. It wasn’t at all doughy. In fact, I think chef mentioned that they piped out the bagel “dough” which was actually more like a little cake.
The second part of the course included a long rectangular vessel covered with plastic wrap. Servers removed the wrap table side allowing a cloud of smoke to envelop the table. The vapor smelled of lightly smoked fish. All you could do was smile with anticipation. Several pieces of Sashimi style fish were perched atop of small pebbles in the vessel. Decorated like a waterbed, it did in fact look like a river. The fish were smoked ever so slightly by the smoke. Gorgeous.
Next was OCTO STEW. This was served alongside the 2011 Illumination, a Sauvignon Blanc made by Quintessa. More complex than many SB, this had nice bright citrus fruits, some light slate and a clean finish with just a kiss of oak and caramel. A perfect pairing for this lighter but robust soup course.
The stew was delicious and rich. Straightforward, it was tomato based and had perfectly grilled pieces of octopus, tomato and other veggies and spices in the bowl. Layered flavors of smoke and char as well as herbaceous notes of veggies and a nice kick at the end from fresh chili peppers. A hearty warming dish.
FRENCH PRESS was one of the most creative dishes of the day. We were presented with what looked like a coffee filter topped with a mound of coffee grounds. The grounds were made out of toasted and seasoned pumpernickel bread. Underneath the mound sat a mousse of mushrooms as well as some lightly sauteed wild mushrooms for texture. The essence of umami was shoved into our face. The crispy crunch of the pumpernickel combined with the creamy moose and tender earthy shrooms made our mouths happy. Completely eccentric and clearly from the mind of a culinary genius, this dish was one I will most likely never come across again.
I don’t take many restroom pics, but here at Moto, even the toilets are bad ass. I mean come on. Check it…
Wait for it….It’s hard to forget how incredible everything tastes even though the stunning presentation of their food is an instant attention grabber from the moment each dish hits the table. Wait for it…Again, all of this over LUNCH!!!
The bacon course was next. Yup, a whole course dedicated to bacon. BACON^4 was just that. Bacon done four ways – perfectly. First, a thin slice of pig face, then a strip of dehydrated bacon. Third was a Funyon style “bacon chip” ring – so cool.
The last item, a savory bacon compote of sorts. Strong smoky flavors and a tender meaty texture. This was a substantial course. It was nice to chew through some meat and experience nice contrast of flavors and textures with a more hearty protein.
The FALLEN LOG course had an aromatic element. Before the course was served. A large tray was brought out and placed on a table in the center of the room. On the tray was a centerpiece made of pine sprigs and small pieces of wood. Multiple servers went to work lighting the different elements of the piece. The room filled with a woodsy aroma that really brought you to the outdoors sitting besides a campfire. Only at Moto.
The dish itself was similar to a dish we tasted at Next Restaurant’s Childhood menu. Atop a wooden log was a savory puree along with, vegetables and fruits, both fresh and dried as well as other sauces all encompassing the essence of the earth.
And how could I forget the slice of seared foie gras and lamb. So savory and extremely hearty and comforting. Complex and familiar flavors with at least a dozen different textural elements all make a fascinating dish where each and every bite is a new experience. Awesome.
The final savory course was a STUDY OF VENISON. In line with the autumnal theme, the venison course was presented on a picture frame with leaves housed beneath the top layer of glass. Oh venison, I see you before me in so many different forms. Jerky, belly, loin, rillette, tartare. Such a cool dish. Tasting the numerous preparations of different parts of the animal. Just one of the offerings would have been a delicious dish, but to include six different bites! Lucky us.
Finally we reach the dessert course. PUMPKIN PATCH was a delight to behold. So small and simple but packed with harvest time flavor and richness. The little sign refers to all the dessert courses if you dine at Moto for dinner. Our Pumpkin patch was a beautiful pumpkin mousse with chocolate elements.
A perfect way to end a remarkable meal. Thank you Chef Cantu and Farina and the team at Moto as well as a special thank you to MS Larry Stone.
After, chef Cantu invited all those who wished to accompany him next door at ing restaurant to experience Flavor Tripping. In short, there’s a berry called The Miracle Berry that when consumed blocks the bitter and sour receptors on the tongue. They’ve synthesized the Berry in tablet form.
He had us place the powder of a crushed Miracle Berry Tablet on our tongue until it dissolved. After that he had us suck on a lemon. It was SWEET! Then we squeezed the lemon into some regular soda water. It tasted EXACTLY like Sprite! Finally we squeezed the lemon onto some sour cream. I kid you not, it tasted like lemon cheesecake. It was totally bizarre and incredibly tasty at the same time.
SO, with the Miracle Berry you can have completely sugar free desserts, and meals, that still taste sweet. Another application that’s already well underway is providing cancer patients, to whom most food tastes bitter, a supply of tablets that make it much easier to eat and enjoy eating again. Bravo chef. You’re undoubtedly onto something big.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat!