There's something really likeable about eating lots of small dishes. From Chinese yum cha to Spanish tapas, the experience of sharing small plates of delectable morsels with friends and family is always an enjoyable one.
Coda sits at the basement level just off Flinders Lane. Anyone walking past it will notice a glowing energy which beckons you to enter the premises. It is orchestrated by owners, Mykal Bartholomew (formerly of MoVida), Kate Calder (formerly of Taxi) and chef Adam D'Sylva (formerly of Pearl and Longrain). So despite initially being turned off by their not-so-pretty website, with almost twenty tempting small dishes on the menu, I just couldn't resist.
The decor within the restaurant is urban chic with monochromatic charcoal tones used throughout the decor and furnishings. Naked light bulbs dangle from the ceiling and softly light up the distressed walls. Mesh has been thoughtfully used to separate the bar area from the restaurant seating.
Lounging comfortably on the corner bench, my boyfriend Zen and I, start with the quail lettuce delight ($7.80 each). It turns out to be a san choy bow with a delicate combination of quail, lup cheong, shitake mushroom, coriander and water chestnuts. We also have the eggplant and tofu lettuce delight ($6 each), which is a more interesting take on the san choy bow. This time, a heavy drizzle of black vinegar coats a rich mixture of eggplant, tofu enoki mushroom and crispy garlic. The generous spoonfuls of the filling in these lettuce cups makes them slightly messy to eat, but the contrast between the crisp cold lettuce and the piping hot fillings makes the sauce dripping down our palms a worthwhile compromise.
The crispy prawn and tapioca betel leaf ($5.80 each) is deep-fried in a tempura style batter. The prawn paste wrapped inside the betel leaves are sort of reminiscent of Vietnamese and Thai flavours. Regardless of which, they were very tasty.
Next we have the signature Coda roll ($10.80 each) - a crisp spring roll of bone marrow, ginger and shitake mushrooms. It is served with a sprig of my favourite rice paddy herb which adds a juicy citrus zing to this moreish parcel.
The Hervey Bay scallops ($6 each) are irresistible also. There's a playful use of pearl tapioca which sits at the bed of the scallop; resembling the the top layer of Yarra Valley salmon caviar in size and shape but contrasting in texture and taste.
Never letting go the chance to savour oysters, we also have a few freshly shucked Pacific oysters ($3.80 each). They are dressed in an exciting mixture of finger lime (which can be best described as a citrus caviar) and mirin. Sublime.
For the more substantial dishes, I order from the 'Bigger' menu. We share the wok-fried black pepper crab ($34) with a side dish of pomme frites ($8) and Coda-slaw ($8), Coda's take on a coleslaw.
The black pepper sauce is stunning - fiery and finger licking good!
The coleslaw on the other hand is a fascinating combination of wombok (Chinese cabbage), carrot, hot mint and red cabbage.
And for dessert, we share the banana fritter, salted peanut coconut caramel and black sesame ice cream ($15); it is perhaps the most seductive pairing of ingredients for the night.
Coda's menu works well in jumping between the delicacies of French and Asian cuisine, and I, am a definite fan.
Coda Bar & Restaurant
Basement, 141 Flinders Lane (corner Oliver Lane)
Phone: (03) 9650 3155