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Coda: seriously good

Mr M and I were lucky enough to be taken to Coda by S & C as a belated wedding present (thanks!). Coda is the new(ish) pursuit of Adam D’Sylva (ex Pearl and The Age Young Chef of the Year 2008) together with Mykal Bartholomew (ex MoVida) and Kate Calder (ex Taxi). Coda serves Asian and French (!?!) food and is situated in a basement space just off Flinders Lane, which was previously home to somewhat hit and miss Greek restaurant Mini. The space is dark and sexy with an industrial feel and some impressive light fittings.

The menu is designed for sharing, with a long list of ’small’ dishes (I think I counted 22) supplemented by a few ‘bigger’ dishes and some other dishes ‘on the side’. The ‘small’ dishes are largely charged on a per item basis. Our waitress explained that about 4 small dishes and 3 bigger dishes should be enough for our party of 4. If all the choices are too overwhelming, the kitchen will put together a selection for you. We decided to choose for ourselves.

First up was quail “lettuce delight” ($6.80 per person):

First impression was it looks like a swanky san choy bow. I guess it sort of was – it had a rich tasty filling with a fresh, crisp outer of lettuce. This was really good – succulent, tasty morsels of quail with mushrooms, coriander and some crunch from the water chestnuts.

Next up was a ‘Ha Noi’ style crispy rice paper roll ($6 each):

This was probably my least favourite dish of the night but it was still pretty tasty (Mr M really liked it). We were instructed to wrap the rolls in the lettuce leaf with the Vietnamese mint and dunk into the chilli and fish sauce dip. These crisp fried rice paper rolls contained a rich mix of pork and it worked well with the mint, chilli and lettuce. The downfall for me was the consistency of the rolls, they were a bit chewy rather than crispy.

Next was the ‘sugar cane prawn’ ($5 each):

These impressive looking little guys consisted of minced prawn on a stick of sugarcane, covered in crisp fried vermicelli noodles with a thick chilli dipping sauce. It all worked. Tasty prawn, crunchy noodle and a fiery kick of chilli. I will definitely be back to eat these again!

Last of the small dishes was one I didn’t actually try (I didn’t feel like scallop) ($6 each):

The scallops were topped with salmon caviar and tapioca pearls. Mr M liked these, S really liked the salty pop of the salmon roe.

Our ‘bigger’ dishes arrived all at once:

Sizzling plate of prawns ($34)

Fish in a bag - barramundi ($35)

Duck curry ($35)

I really enjoyed all of these, though I think the barra’ was my favourite. The barra’ was delicately flavoured, moist and perfectly cooked. It provided a nice contrast to the other two dishes, which were much stronger in flavour. The sizzling prawns were spiked with chilli and sat atop a mound of mushrooms, Thai basil and beans. The yellow duck curry was rich and flavoursome and there was some contrast with the bamboo shoots and crisp skin (interestingly, I thought the roasted skin worked here, unlike the duck curry I had at Isthmus of Kra).

By this stage we were pretty full but the dessert menu beckoned and we were tempted. S ordered the tasting plate ($16):

This comprised of a chocolate pot with hazelnut brittle and pumpkin foam as well as a little lemon tart with yuzu marshmallow. S was a little perturbed by the pumpkin foam but generally very pleased with her dessert.

C ordered the special, a bombe alaska:

(Note that I tried to capture the impressive flames here, but my photography skills are seriously lacking). This was a little different to the usual bombe alaska as it contained a fruit sorbet in the centre rather than the traditional vanilla/chocolate/caramel. C enjoyed this although he wasn’t sure all the rum burnt off, consequently it was a pretty boozy dessert.

I ordered the apple and goats cheese fritters ($14.80):

(Apologies for the terrible picture).

These crisp fried little balls were served with leatherwood honey ice-cream and topped with za’atar, toasted sesame seeds and a drizzle of extra honey. I was intrigued to try za’atar in a sweet dish as opposed to our recent savoury dish of za’atar coated labne balls. The za’atar worked well against the strongly flavoured honey. The balls were crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Unfortunately for me, they were quite cake-like in the centre (I don’t eat wheat), so I switched with Mr M and tackled his dessert.

Mr M had chosen tapioca pudding with fruits and ginger sorbet ($14.80):

(Another not great picture)

I really love tapioca (and I have previously made tapioca pudding). This was great. The tapioca retained its pearl shape in this dish and tasted strongly of coconut. The tapioca was topped with some fresh fruits and a fresh but zingy ruby grapefruit and ginger sorbet (must try to make this at home!). Delicious.

All in all, a wonderful meal. Service was relaxed but attentive. Food was interesting, playful at times and above all tasty. I’ll definitely be going back!

Details

Coda
Open Tuesday-Sunday Dinner, Wednesday-Sunday Lunch.
Basement 141 Flinders Lane (Cnr Oliver Lane)
Melbourne, VIC
Ph: (03) 9650 3155

Note: it is best to book, especially for larger groups – we needed to book ahead 3 weeks to secure a table for 4 on a weeknight.

Looking in from the laneway as we left...

Coda on Urbanspoon

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5 Responses to “Coda: seriously good”

  1. I have to say that the first three dishes didn’t excite me – they’re pretty standard on any menu at the Vietnamese eateries in Richmond, for a lot cheaper!

    However, the desserts look pretty special – maybe that’ll be the focus on my visit instead.

    Jetsetting Joyce

    • Emily says:

      Yes, I thought the same thing when I saw the ‘delight’ (aka san choy bow) but it was absolutely delicious. Really, a standout and much better than the Vic St fare. Those sugar cane prawns were pretty great as well.

      The desserts were delicious and unusual so certainly focus on them!

      Also, since I went, a friend told me that the betel leaf with prawn and tapioca is amazing. So maybe give that a try as well!

  2. luke says:

    Did you see any celebs at this place? Apparently this place is popular with the mayor of Notting Hill – his 912 was parked out the front the other day…

  3. Brett says:

    I had an occassion to drop in on Coda just this weekend… and I’ll have to say I left a little under-impressed. It was nice, a bit qirky different but the flavours were ultimatley not to dissimilar to what you can find on Victoria Street. On the up side, nice venue, nice service, good (but $$) wine list.

    • Emily says:

      Hmm that’s a pity you were a little underwhelmed. It’s interesting because I think Coda can be a little divisive – some people really like it (including me) and some have been a bit meh. I’ve been a couple of times and always enjoyed it…

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