Friday, June 26, 2009

Coda Bar + Restaurant

I keep starting and restarting this post; how do I describe the food at Coda that actually informs a diner more thoroughly than what I was before we visited?
I thought about what we ate and when, how we ate it, and then thought about the house named roll and how it essentially sums up the Coda palate:

'Coda roll, crisp parcel of bone marrow, ginger, shiitake mushroom and rice paddy herb'

Essentially a spring roll with pieces of bone marrow, shiitake and ginger inside, served with a lemon based dressing and stalks of lemony rice paddy herb. The bone marrow was rich and palate coating yet the dressing and herb add a refreshing acid lift.
I loved this. I love the seamless fusion of the ideas.

All the other dishes we ate were not neat fusions of Eur-Asian ideas such as the Coda Roll. The menu seemed to be split into South East Asian dishes focusing on Vietnam and Thailand or pure French benchmarks such as parfait, tartare and terrine. Yet as you would expect from a modern Australian menu there was Asian produce mixed through the European stalwarts; so oysters served with mirin and pomelo, or ginger in our coleslaw makes perfect sense, to us.

What didn't make perfect sense to me was the powerful flavours of Asia served at the same time as delicate French classics; my MacLeay Valley rabbit cassoulet was absolutely swamped on the taste front, by the in-your-face aromats of mussels stir fried with rice wine, chinese sausage and chilli. Likewise our steak tartare seemed under seasoned (perhaps it was) in comparison to the 'Quail Delight' flavour bombs or the spanner crab, galangal, chilli and lime betel leaves.

Perhaps these are just opening wobbles, we did dine just 8 days into what I no doubt predict will be a very successful business, but next time I will definitely be more careful about asking when my dishes will be served.

A high point of our evening was the amazing service. Mykal -who's face I know from MoVida and his partner Kate were absolutely glowing with pride in their first venue. Our waiter was friendly and had that perfect knack of being there just at the right time (though she had no idea of what the cheese selection was that night - perhaps that's a good indicator of the overriding importance put on the Asian dishes, especially since another person explained the use of the paddy herb with the precision of a biologist).

No doubt with chef partner Adam D'Sylva in the kitchen Asian dishes will be a focus, I just hope to see some balance across the broad range of flavours, tweaks are inevitable in a new restaurant and I am excited about my next visit, some of my most memorable European food experiences have happened in Asia, from artistic artichokes in Dalat to exquisitely matured Epoisses in Hong Kong and my favourite fusion on all, the banh mi. I hope to continue this traditional now at home, in Melbourne.

Welcome Coda.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Persimmons, different styles for different uses

A few years ago I learnt the difference the hard why. But since then I haven't seen the offending (when firm) acorn shaped persimmon that often.

I'm still cautious though whenever I buy one of these vanillian scented beauties.

The acorn shaped style on the left should be soft and a deep orange orange colour when its jellied flesh is ready to be spooned out.

The tomato shaped style on the right should be firm and a apricot orange colour whrn its crunchy flesh is ready to be cut into wedges or eaten as an apple.

Nice and simple.

Oh and thanks to Jess for beating me to the idea...! ;)

The Deanery, Melbourne

Still in catchup mode, I started this last week before my weekend in NZ...

Tonight I headed out for dinner with a girlfriend, we had no real plans but a short list of possibilities. It was too early for our first choice, Coda (due to open properly next week; soft opening from tomorrow) so The Deanery, Robin Wickens new-ish haunt, it was.

So yes, I wasn't in the head space for it but its certainly didn't win me over; food, service, wine, ambiance or value.

I've drank at The Deanery many times and even had a few bar snacks over the years but have never felt inclined to eat there. It feels like a bar and to be honest I guess they know that, that's why when we arrived and asked about having dinner we were advised that we would be "more comfortable" upstairs.

So we are lead upstairs, around a corner to a spot-lit, double set table. We realise that yes, the bar space was definitely more of what we had in mind, yet we are now here and at the mercy of an assortment of waiters. House made bread arrives, oh no this just isn't what I had in mind at all.
If I wanted flavoured bread, I'd go to Bakers Delight...

The night rolls on from here. The food is fine; fancy but fine. The menu is impossible to decipher (and that's rich coming from me) and the dishes we receive though interesting are far from what we could possibly image - maybe that's the point? (My thoughts and pictures are on twitter, here, here, here and here)

Well I guess the ex-Interlude customers (read: older, richer, stuffier, conservative) would like this but from a glance around the empty dining room I guess that's all it will impress, and hey didn't Interlude go out of business? Either we don't get him or he doesn't get us but Robin Wickens food seems more than a little out of touch with the current hospitality climate.

Without nagging on any further, I feel I must mention the service... just strange...
Stiff, a bit pompous ("so, no entree for you?", "just a glass?") and plain unthoughtful. A silly mess with our credit card payments with three enquiries from different waiters and a forgotten scarf left in the center of our table as we sipped digestives in the bar (we were informed of the scarf, by a fellow diner and strangly not the waiter that must have moved it there). I'm not sure what it was all about but I am uncertain who was in charge of the dining room that night and I guess that's my answer.

So The Deanery, what can I say.
Pop in for a drink by all means, the wines are reasonably priced but don't be lead up the stairs to the dining room, I don't think you will be "more comfortable" up there.

Oh and even the MasterChef caption writer can spell Caesar (as in the salad) why can't The Deanery? At a diningroom like this, it's all about trust, trust that everyone is as keen and passionate about the product as the diner; this just screams to me that they can't be bothered.

Sorry guys, no wonder the traditional media haven't published anything, maybe I should have followed suit in the "if you can't say something nice..." bandwagon but its just not in my nature.