April 26, 2012

Basement 141 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

It was a balmy evening in the CBD, and D met me after work for some munchies at Coda, a restaurant I had been meaning to visit for some time. Coda does take reservations but we arrived quite early and perched ourselves at the bar, which ended up being an excellent position given the chattiness and general enthusiasm of one particular staff member, not to mention the proximity to the gin (and tonic).

Like always, I’d done my research, and one of the “must try” dishes of the joint were the betel leaves piled with spanner crab, galangal, roasted chilli and lime. These were sensational, I loved the fresh and sour taste of the grapefruit contrasted with the sweet pieces of crab meat. Recommendation #1.

The other ubitquitous dish at Coda is their sugar cane prawns, which consist of a pureed prawn mixture not unlike that found in dumplings, fried in vermicelli noodles that had a pleasantly crisp texture and were skewered onto a sugar cane stick. They were quite difficult to eat, but tasty nonetheless and we enjoyed sucking on the sugar cane afterwards. However I do feel that most of the hype around these concerns the presentation and not the taste. Take It or Leave It #1.

Rice paper roll with crayfish, perilla and chive bud; surprisingly bland, and I couldn’t taste any crayfish. Especially given the exorbitant price of $10 for one of these (which let me reiterate includes lettuce, rice paper and, purportedly, crayfish), it’s not exactly good value. Rejection #1.

Our second order of food and drinks (still G&Ts – I believe there’s something to be said for consistency) produced a similar contrast between some brilliant dishes and one flop. The blackened quail with daikon and shiso salad was messily enjoyable, I liked the sticky-sweet glaze and the gamey taste of the meat. Recommendation #2.

D was keen on trying the suspiciously called ‘Beef lettuce delight’, which comes as a sort of fresh san choi bao with nahm jim, chilli, tomato and spearmint. I thought this dish had too much coriander, and whilst the beef was good and moist there wasn’t much of it. Rejection #2.

Next up was the lamb chop with chimi churri and orange cumin salt, which was a resounding success. The succulent cutlet (isn’t cutlet such a cute word?) was excellently complimented by a topping of lemon, onion, coriander and chilli. I very much enjoyed munching on the crispy bits around the bone. Recommendation #3.

The chatty barman we’d been sharing our night with enjoyed experimenting with our G&Ts; it was somewhere between the quail and the lamb that he convinced me to try one with a grapefruit segment (not bad, but not good enough to convert me). And I’m fairly sure different gins were sampled throughout the night. Towards the end of our meal he made a drink called an East Sider, which had something to do with gin, lime and palm sugar. “It’s delicious!”, says I. “Well, they don’t call me Timothy Christmas for nothing!”, says he, jubilant. Timothy Christmas, if indeed that is your name, thank you for a lovely evening!

All the previous dishes were from the small bites section of Coda’s menu; while I like the idea of being able to taste different things, they’re not really very good value. Our bill ended up being fairly substantial, but then we did eat and drink quite a lot and I think you could easily enjoy a slightly cheaper meal here by sticking to the larger dishes which are better value, on the whole.

The one large dish we shared was the yellow duck curry, which was an EXCELLENT CHOICE. Oh sweet lordy this was a great savory dish to end on – seriously spicy and sour and sweet and there was lots of duck meat, cooked perfectly. Recommendation #4.

And then, because we didn’t need dessert but I felt my readers deserved to hear of it (the sacrifices I make for you people…), the Coda bombe. My notes end at the words “Coda bombe – fire!”, but I can attest to the theatricality of it and some sort of delicious ice-cream. To the side of the main plate is, from what I can remember, a mandarin sorbet and a chocolate crumble. Make of it what you will.

Coda on Urbanspoon

Filed under: Melbourne CBD, Thai