Sunday, April 29, 2012


I still don't really know how I feel about Coda. I so wanted to love it, and there was so much to love about it. Every time I had walked past this beautiful basement restaurant a year or so ago, peering down through the floor height windows, I had wanted to eat there. It is a very beautiful looking restaurant, with a long bar, fine furnishings, ambient lighting, a semi-open kitchen. The service was impeccable- the waiters were attentive without hovering and honest about which dishes they preferred, one waitress even spending 5-10 minutes discussing our main choices with us. The sommelier was helpful and friendly, and we really enjoyed our bottle of French Pinot Noir.

But, as my dining companions (my foodie cousin, my fussy cousin and our respective partners) and I discussed last night over our long meal, something seemed not right about Coda. We put it down to the fact that their menu seems to be a fusion that just doesn't seem to compliment each other enough- Asian, French and some hints of Mediterranean.

Don't get me wrong, I ate some amazing French inspired Vietnamese food whilst over in Vietnam. But these dishes didn't bring the two cultures together, it was more that the menu included scatterings of Asian dishes (tapas, curries, little bites) and French dishes (steak with pomme daughinoise, steak tartare) and Mediterranean (some amazing zucchini fritters, proscuitto with figs, lamb chop with chimi churri). We just couldn't seem to wrap our tastebuds around digging into a beautiful Mediterranean lamb chop, then zucchini fritters with melt in your mouth buffalo mozzerella, then the spicy Asian flavours of a duck curry and Korean chicken. The dishes just didn't seem to compliment each other.

It was very difficult not to compare Coda with its neighour, Chin Chin. Whilst the service and ambiance at Chin Chin has nothing on Coda, every dish there just seems to compliment the one before and after, the flavours all go together with the classic combination of sweet and salty, zesty and spicy. They do Asian fusion, and they do it well, whereas this strange French, Asian, Mediterranean fusion at the neighboring restaurant just didn't leave us as impressed.

In saying this, we did eat some really wonderful dishes and enjoyed our time there.
We started off by choosing our own selection of tapas dishes from the 'Smaller' selection- individual serves of Asian and Mediterranean tapas choices. We all agreed that if we were to ever revisit Coda, we would leave the mains and feast on this part of the menu, as this was the part of the meal that seemed to work.
Spanner Crab, Galangal, roasted chilli and lime betel leaf

Crispy Prawn and Tapioca Betel Leaf
Two of my dining companions chose these little bites of plump seafood with spices and were impressed by both of them

Beef lettuce delight with nahm jim, chilli, tomato and spearmint
They were also impressed with the 'sang choi bow'-esque lettuce cups filled with yummy tender beef and herbs.

Sugar cane prawn with sweet chilli sauce
My boyfriend couldn't go past this massive sugar cane prawn- prawn mince wrapped in crispy rice noodles. I had a bite and it was indeed very delicious, but also very messy and hard to eat in a fancy restaurant. He really had to go barbarian and just hold it like a drumstick- very funny to watch!

Hanoi crispy rice paper roll with nuoc cham dipping sauce

My more fussy cousin loved this Hanoi spring roll so much that she ordered a second one. I was lucky enough to get a taste and the spiced pork wrapped in the crispy rice paper with the crisp lettuce and herbs took me back to Hanoi where we ate these every day for approximately 10 cents a spring roll. It was very enjoyable but hard to justify the price when you can get a serve of six on Victoria Street for the same price- however the surroundings would not be nearly as nice.

Soft rice paper roll with fresh tuna and wasabi mayonnaise
Regular readers will know I cannot go past raw tuna, so I adored this beautiful rice paper roll fresh tuna and a gorgeous wasabi dipping sauce. I know what I will be having next time I buy fresh tuna. This was a beautiful little dish.

Tempura Bugs with Roy Choi's kim chi, chilli salt and soy dipping sauce
This was another awesome Asian inspired dish. Plump bugs in a crispy batter served with a soy dipping sauce and then dipped into an almost 'dukkah style' dipping salt that clings to the bug and explodes in your mouth. Kim Chi was very spicy and not the best I have had.

Lamb Chop with chimi churri and orange cumin salt
We all agreed that this was one of the two stand-out dishes for the evening- these tender, melt in your mouth lamb chops turned us all into barbarians, picking up the bone and sucking off every bit of juicy marinade and meat we could find. The zestiness of the chimi churri with the sweetness of the orange salt was really wonderful.

That's Amore Buffalo Mozzarella with zucchini fritters, mint and pea salad
This was the second stand out dish that everyone wished they could have 'Amore' of. Huge, beautiful and plump pieces of mozzarella with a crunchy little fritters and fresh salad. My only complaint would be that the size of the fritters compared to photos we have all seen on Urban Spoon didn't seem consistent- these ones were literally bite size and didn't seem to contain a hell of a lot of zucchini at all. However, I would still order them again and again.

After we had worked our way through all these little bites, we picked two mains to share. My foodie cousin was devestated to find the black pepper crab had sold out already, so we asked the waitress for the next two best mains to share.

'Uhm Ma' Chicken
We were told that this was the most popular main on the menu, a Korean style dish featuring a spicy sauce with vegetables and whole pieces of chicken. I can't say this dish (or either of the mains) blew me away. The flavours were nice but it was very heavy and despite the salad we got to cut through the spiciness and heaviness of the dish, it left me feeling a little blah.

Roasted duck yellow curry
The actual duck in this dish was really wonderful, melt in your mouth, fall off your bone- yum. But the sauce itself was fairly mediocre and I have had better yellow curry at the local Thai restaurant. It didn't leave me wanting more.

Heart of palm, honey-dew melon, mint and cucumber salad
This was enjoyable and much needed to cut through the spiciness and heavy flavours of our mains, but once again wasn't anything I would order again.

Obviously all of the above are just my opinions on that particular night, but as I have said above, these different cuisines just didn't seem to fuse for me. It felt odd going from cuisine to cuisine in such a way. I would argue that they definitely seemed to do Meditteranean the best, as the lamb chops and zucchini fritters were undoubtedly the dishes we would return for.

Monkey banana fritters, crushed pistachio, black sesame and coconut sorbet

And, they definitely did know how to do dessert. My foodie cousin and I absolutely devoured Coda's take on banana fritters, battered in crispy rice noodle-esque pieces with gorgeous sorbet and crunchy pistachio. I would have this for dessert every night if I could afford it- both money wise and calorie wise.

So all in all, we were both overly impressed and somewhat underwhelmed by Coda all at the same time. I think I would give it another try, but purely focus on the small plates and dessert and skip the main section altogether.

A very beautiful restaurant, great for a romantic first date or special occasion... just make sure you are prepared for flavour confusion! ;) Coda on Urbanspoon

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