“Have you been to Coda yet?”. The amount of times I have been asked this over the past year is ridiculous, so it was high time I journeyed to the basement space on Flinders Lane and change my answer from “Not yet” to “Yes!” Opened last year by Adam D’Sylva, The Age Good Food Guide’s young chef of the year in 2008 and two other first-time owners, Mykal Bartholomew, from MoVida, and Kate Calder, from Taxi, Coda offers a diverse menu of Asian and European flavours, leaning heavily towards Vietnamese.
Friday night bookings require a little patience, but are well worth it if you want to guarantee your seat. Half the restaurant is assigned to bookings and the other half made up of high tables and the bar are for walk ins, so if you are fine with that then skip the queue.
My dining companion and I were a little earlier than the rest of our party, so we started with a glass of Cava at the bar. Guests who have a booking are welcome to perch at the bar while waiting; it was a nice, buzzy start to the evening. Once the group arrived Travis (who I believe is the sommelier), led us to our table.
It normally bugs me, but the current trend of small, shared meals actually worked in this scenario. I am considering a boycott of the ‘tapas style’ eating and putting it out there that I just want to eat my own meal and not risk forking someone in the battle for the last spring roll. The new social dilemma facing my generation is not how someone holds their knife and fork or splitting the bill, it’s who devours the last spring roll and frankly I am sick of it…but I digress.
Coda has the whole sharing thing worked out nicely. Rather than saying a serve is a set number like three pieces or five pieces (social minefields for parties or two or four), you order by the piece. Hallelujah!
My foodie friends had eaten at Coda before so I felt perfectly happy handing over ordering rights and they definitely didn’t disappoint! We started with a Hà Nôi style crispy rice paper roll with nuoc mam dipping sauce ($6.80), a herb crumbed lamb chop ($8) and spanner crab, galangal, roasted chilli and lime betel leaf each ($5.80). From the little tastes, the rice paper roll was my favourite probably because it was served as a crispy roll with the traditional Thai basil and iceberg lettuce to wrap around.
Next came the shared dishes. The buffalo mozzarella with zucchini fritters and a mint and pea salad ($20) was by far my favourite dish of the night. Partly due to the fact I can’t get enough buffalo mozzarella, and partly due to the fact it beautifully contrasted the predominantly Asian dishes we had ordered. It wasn’t on the menu, but the waitress had offered us the last serve of some pork belly they rustled up. I had heard that they order in suckling pig to make a terrine and then roast up the remaining pork belly. I think it should be on the menu. It’s ridiculously rich, but well worth it if you have a few people sharing. The Coda slaw ($8) with wombok, carrot, hot mint and red cabbage complemented the roasted yellow duck curry ($38) with jasmine rice and was the perfect ending for our mains.
I was super excited about dessert. I had spied banana fritters on the menu when the girls were ordering. A few months ago I was reacquainted with the joys of a banana fritter at Lau’s Kitchen and as soon as I clocked it on the Coda menu, I had to have it. It didn’t disappoint! Monkey banana fritters, salted peanut coconut caramel and black sesame ice cream ($15)…yum, yum and yum! The caramel was, to quote the Masterchef panel, “the hero of the dish”, and I swear I could have just had that on ice cream.
All in all it was a really enjoyable dinner. Service was attentive, confident wine recommendations and the menu interesting (in the good way!). I would definitely eat there again.
Basement, 141 Flinders Lane,
Melbourne, VIC, 3003
Image: Tourism Victoria