Can't decide if you want to eat Asian or French tonight? Feel like a green mango salad with a side of fries?
Then Coda is for you.
Coda Restaurant and Bar was the only place that I'd booked at on our Melbourne tour. When I phoned a week earlier, they said they had a table from 6pm, but we had to be out by 8pm. No probs, we were in!
I'd first heard about Coda after reading an article where designer Yeojin Bae recommended it because it served both French and Vietnamese cuisines, perfect when one of you wants one and the other wants another (I wanted the French!). Coda is down another manky laneway, though it fronts Flinders Lane, a couple of blocks before Cumulus Inc.
We were one of the first to arrive, just after 6pm on Thursday night. We had a nice table at the end of the restaurant, below the street-height windows. Enough of the build-up, let's just get straight to the food, shall we? PS: The menu is divided into 'Smaller' and 'Bigger' dishes. We ordered just Smaller dishes, though some of the Smaller dishes are also meant to be shared.
I loved the pot of Rabbit Rillette pickled cucumber, cornichons and sour dough ($20). The meat was so shredded and tender and it went well with the crunchy cornichons.
We each had a Hervey Bay scallop with pearl tapioca and Yarra Valley salmon caviar ($7 each). The scallops were beautifully seared, and the egg-y tapioca on which it sat was unusual but tasty. Peeking out behind the scallops is are Pomme Frites ($8), a massive bowl of shoestring fries, just the thing for picking at.
An Asian-inspired plate of Quail lettuce delight ($7.80) was next. It's like a sang choy bao, with bits of lup cheong sausage, shiitake mushroom and water chestnuts wrapped in a lettuce leaf. Nice big serving, too.
That's a blackened quail with daikon and shiso salad ($7) - a caramelised grilled quail leg that's perfect for picking up with your fingers to chew off the meat.
Then there's a trout fritter with a paprika aioli ($6), a fried ball full of trout and shallot, moistened by the sauce.
A salad was next, of Fremantle octopus with green mango and kaffir lime salad ($20). Gosh, the octopus was super tender, and the green mango was beautifully sweet.
Together with the fries, I think this was enough food for us. Except for dessert.
I love fruity desserts, so I ordered the passionfruit mousse ($15), with rose nectar jelly, strawberries and orange lace. I think the description also made me order this gorgeous-looking confection. The mousse was tangy, the rose jelly was fragrant, and the whole thing was just beautiful.
We also had the souffle ($17). Tonight, it was a mixed berry souffle, served with yoghurt sorbet, on a berry shortcake. The souffle was so light and redolent with berries. The shortcake was also baked to perfection and married really well with the sour/sweet sorbet.
I was surprised at how lovely Coda is. From the time we were seated to when the bill was presented, the service was just right. Our sweet waitress explained the menu and was always on hand to top up our water and drinks even when the place filled up later. And the food... you wouldn't think that the strange medley of dishes would work, but because they are served separately (no 'fusion' junk here), it just makes for a great night of well-prepared, 'I wonder what's next' enjoyment.
The VIbe: Nice, different, unusual. Like the friend who's really popular but also a lovely person.
Coda is in the Basement of 141 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Vic. Entry via Oliver Lane.
Ph: 03 9650 3155. codarestaurant.com.au
We had only one more full day in Melbourne. What did we do? What did we eat? Stay tuned. Hint: It involves a coach ride to a shopping centre and a meal at Shoya Japanese.