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Coda

The signature Coda Roll

The signature Coda Roll

I take it very personally when someone in the restaurant industry moves on without my consent. With the closure of Pawan, a Thai joint in Springvale, I was forced to seek therapy. There was no warning, no notice; just newspaper up in the darkened windows on a routine Saturday afternoon visit. Goong, the owner/chef, just disappeared overnight.

I asked around the Thai grocers and restaurateurs in Springvale. I even resorted to Twitter. “He’s opening something in Brighton”, “He’s working fulltime in a factory”. The leads were shaky.  It’s been a year and I’m still no closer to recovering the best Som Tum in Melbourne.

And it seems it is not just chefs that tempt my inner John Hinckley. It seems that I’m now stalking managers.

For me, MoVida has long shown perfect synchronicity between kitchen and front-of-house.  Multiple excursions to MoVida over the past few years have been fuelled not only by chef Frank Camorra’s divine cecina and espinacas con garbanzos, but by the gregarious hospitality shown to all by manager Mykal Bartholemew.

Upon his departure from MoVida, Mykal proved more traceable than Goong. In fact, he’s right around the corner. Andy, the new and deft maître d’, was happy to tell me where he’d gone.

The new space comes with a great pedigree.  “My” Mykal is one of three extraordinary partners. Chef Adam D’Sylva, formerly of Pearl by way of NYC’s fabled Per Se, is at the stove. And Taxi’s former floor supervisor Kate Calder brings her finesse.

Coda inhabits the site formerly occupied by Mini in Flinders Lane.  It’s very airy for a basement. The professed “ghetto chic” interior is very now, but also, oddly, comfy. Perhaps it’s a GFC aesthetic that makes us all feel we’re spending less than we actually are.

However, with the focus on small dishes, it’s quite possible not to spend a bomb at Coda. And, really the small plates are what we’re here to try. On the small menu, D’Sylva swings gracefully from Vietnam to France, through Thailand and Japan. This miscellany of influence makes for one of the most quintessentially Mod Oz/Pac Rim menus in town.

While the menu is dominated by smaller dishes, there are a few mains. The inclusion of dishes such as a charcoal grilled Hopkins River steak béarnaise and MacLeay valley rabbit cassoulet is business-smart. It transforms Coda from being a strictly hipster zone to being the sort of place you could also take your grandparents.

When Partner and I go for lunch on a Saturday, however, we set about sharing as many small plates as possible.

Citrus cured Hiramasa kingfish

Citrus cured Hiramasa kingfish

The citrus cured Hirasama kingfish, fresh wasabi, pickled radish arrived first. It was absolutely balanced and subtle. While a great dish, I would have liked it mid-meal, as a sort of palette cleanser. Perhaps the fear is that it might become a whimper among the roar of other flavours to come.

Eggplant and tofu lettuce delight

Eggplant and tofu lettuce delight

Among the stand out dishes were the quail lettuce delight, lup cheong, shiitake mushroom, coriander and water chestnuts. It is the perfect take on san choi bao. It’s a flavourful mix with plenty of wok hei, that magical characteristic imparted by a supremely hot wok. Partner and I also swooned over the roasted Coffin bay scallop, pearl tapioca, and Yarra Valley salmon caviar, which tasted exactly like a day at the beach. But, you know, a really nice beach devoid of children, raw sewage and broken fits.

Coffin Bay scallop

Coffin Bay scallop

Significantly, our friendly hipster Mykal has lost none of his warmth in the move up Flinders Lane.

Now. If only I could find Goong.

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