In Chinatown often the best dishes are not even written on the menu.  It felt a little Chinatown-esque at Coda when our waiter tipped us a wink and whispered that the must order dish was the “off menu”   pork belly ($40).  Unfortunately unlike those secret dishes in Chinatown, the pork belly was a bit of a disappointment.  While the pork was pink and tender the skin was limp rather than crisp crackling.

Follow the signs to Coda in a basement off Flinders Lane

Coda’s menu is Pan Asian so there’s not just a nod to China in the menu, there’s also a little bit of Thailand (courtesy of chef Adam D’Sylva’s Longrain background) and a strong Vietnamese influence.

The “off menu” pork belly

It’s a fun place to eat at even if the food is sometimes disappointing.  The basement setting has a sense of energy with a sleek back bar, a hyperactive open kitchen and low hanging sculptural wire lighting.  There is also plenty of  entertainment value to be had from sitting and watching peoples legs go past along Flinders Lane.  The restaurant takes bookings (a novelty at the moment in Melbourne) but there is also a big bar area for walk ins and some tables for four.  MTV and I snagged one of these tables for a dinner with Carly, who writes the excellent restaurant blog Greedy Diva, and her husband.

It’s a stylish basement space

At Longrain D’Sylva was known for his betel leaves and the leaves on the menu at Coda do not disappoint.  Crispy betel leaves were filled with juicy prawn ($23.20 for four) while fresh betel leaves ($27.20) were topped with spanner crab and crisp shallots in a fashionable jumble of competing textures.

Soft betel leaves

There were some striking combinations at Coda.  Octopus ($22) was grilled until tender, and sat on a bed of pounded chilli and shallots.  There were pronounced flavours with slivers of sour green mango and kaffir lime providing a contrast to the fiery spice of the chilli and shallots.  Fat golden zucchini fritters ($22) were more traditionally paired with creamy mozzarella but the dish was the enlivened with a cool zucchini, pea and mint salad.

Zucchini fritters with mozzarella

However other dishes on the menu fell into the category of being good but all to familiar.  The Scotch fillet steak ($38) was fine.  But then it should be for that price.  Similarly the coda slaw ($8) was a colourful but bland medley of matchstick thin vegetables.

Banana fritters

Things perked up with a dessert of crunchy banana fritters with coconut ice cream ($15) but overall the food was inconsistent.  Similarly the sommelier’s recommendations during dinner were also hit and miss.  We found the Wanted Man Marsanne ($68) had a strange smell to it but his next suggestion, the La Linea Tempranillo ($58) a smooth and subtle red wine, was spot on.

Go to Coda for the buzz and for some genuinely exciting dishes.  However sometimes the result of all that creativity is dissonance rather than harmony.  I think nearby Chin Chin is a better option for a fusion style restaurant with share plates.

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Details: Coda, Basement 141 Flinders Lane, Melbourne City 3000 (Ph 03 9650 3155) Open: Tue-Sun noon-3pm and 6pm-late.
Damage: Pricey.  Our bill came to $365 for four with drinks.

Coda on Urbanspoon


  1. Given the style of d├ęcor this is hardly the old “not on western menu” caper.

    In this case, shouldn’t it just be called a special anywhere else on the planet?

  2. My goodness I would eat there once a week if it was in my city!

  3. the banana fritters look awesome!

  4. I do like places where the staff recommend things to you. But that pork does look a bit disappointing, definitely no crackling there. But those banana fritters on the other hand, look incredible.

  5. How good do these zucchini fritters look!!! Yum! x

  6. Gregory – I agree. I think they tried to make it a bit more glamorous by having it as an “off menu” dish but if you do that then the dish really needs to deliver.

    Andi – You must come visit Melbourne then.

    Betty – They were

    Hungry and Frozen – Staff recommendations are always good I agree, just this time we were not sold on it. You were right the fritters were great.

    Emily – They were very good indeed.

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