I rely on a network of informants – friends, readers and colleagues – to help me decide which restaurants to test and review. One of the most reliable is a certain Jean-Michel, a man with high culinary standards and an impressive knowledge of wine. His latest find was Mokko, which he chose simply by walking by and deciding he liked the look of the place and its menu.
That’s a risky way to choose a restaurant, but in this case, good old J-M hit a home run.
The decor at Mokko is pleasingly stripped down, with two rooms separated by a glass wall and simple but handsome blond-wood tables (including some of those dreaded high tables). The four of us were seated in a private, glass-walled room at a big picnic table (surprisingly comfortable) that could have accommodated several more people.
Although there was a reasonably priced three-course set menu at only €36, we all opted for the six-course blind tasting menu at €44.
The meal started off on an original note with a pair of dishes. Pieces of smoked sardine added depth and zing to the subtle cold bouillon of “tomato water.” Alongside it was a ceviche of that currently popular fish maigre (meager) with coriander, cashews and bits of sweet potato in a wonderful broth of fennel with just a hint of chili.
Then came what was probably my favorite dish, although it would be hard to choose: duck tataki (barely cooked) with slices of peach at a perfect state of ripeness, and red shiso leaves. A brilliant combination of slightly gamy, sweet and fruity, and herbal flavors, with a dash of fig oil.
What might be called the vegetable course consisted of green beans with just the right bite seasoned with verbena and lime, and accompanied by cherries. Not even the most recalcitrant meat-lover could object to that.
The “main” course was the same fish we had had in the ceviche, meager, but this time cooked to a turn, with two amazing complementary sauces: one of smoked coconut and the other a beurre blanc flavored with cassis (black currant). It was served with lovely cooked fennel.
We were given a choice of two desserts and tried both of them. The chocolate mousse was light and fluffy and beautifully flavored, and the deconstructed Mont Blanc was especially interesting, with vanilla frozen yogurt, crushed meringue and a little alcohol thrown into the chestnut cream.
Chef Arthur Hantz obviously knows how to choose the best products of the season and put them together in new and interesting ways.
Merci, Jean-Michel. You are now an accredited scout. What’s next?