Coda, My Colleague’s “Best Lunch of His Life”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Coda is a truly wonderful restaurant, located just off Flinders Lane, among a row of banner restaurants in the Melbourne, Australia’s Central Business District.  A colleague and I found ourselves in need of lunch one day last week between meetings.  It was one of those stressful days, where work takes precedence before all other things, and we just needed somewhere to go for sustenance before our next round of training.

Less than a block away, Coda seemed a great choice.  It was well reviewed, we’d walked past it a number of times, and the menu looked interesting.  As Americans, especially southerners, we tend to eat lunch earlier than most so we were the first to arrive at straight up noon.  The staff was welcoming and warm, and seated us in a corner spot which allowed us to review our work materials while enjoying a great view of the entire restaurant.

The menu, which tends towards tapas style, gave us the opportunity to sample a number of dishes and linger for an hour over sumptuous selections.  My lunch companion (who is also a bit of a foodie) proclaimed this Coda feast as the best lunch of his life.  Indeed, it was a perfectly composed menu from which we made stellar selections.

We shared: 1. Chargrilled lamb cutlet with harissa and honey yoghurt $8 that was simply divine – a perfect blend of savory with hint of sweet, it was perfection on a bone (and if I’d been home alone, I would have gnawed the bone a bit!).  2. That’s Amore Buffalo mozzarella, zucchini fritters, mint and pea salad$22 – which went perfectly with the lamb.  3. Yellow fin tuna, daikon, green apple salad with pinenuts, ponzu and fresh wasabi $22.  4. Wok fried bok choy and lettuce with garlic and ginger $8 – which was lovely, the way I wish bok choy would come out as I cook it at home.

I highly recommend visit Coda, it was spot on both with service and flavors.  Plus for the Melbourne CBD, was very reasonably priced.

 Open 7 days – Lunch: Midday to 3pm, Dinner:      6pm to 10:30pm.
Basement 141 Flinders Lane (Cnr Oliver Lane) Melbourne      3003 Map
They recommend Secure Parking, 114 Flinders Lane
Telephone +613 9650 3155 Facsimile +613 9662 2117

Chin Chin – A Magical Meal in Melbourne

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This week I’m on a whirlwind work trip to Melbourne, Australia.  After spending 28 hours in transit (in coach) to get here,  battling a 16 hour time difference jet lag, the start of a cold, and managing 15+ hour work days, I’m exhausted.  Mind you, I recognize that many people would love to have these problems, so I’m grateful at the same time.

As my meetings wound down and I returned to my hotel, I knew that once I went up to my room I wouldn’t be venturing out again.  So I mustered the energy and I went straight to dinner.  Thinking I was going to be stuck with the senior citizen early bird special, what I found was perhaps the best meal I’ve had in over a year!

Chin Chin & Go Go is a restaurant and bar in downtown Melbourne just off the tony address of Russell and Collins where my hotel the Grand Hyatt is located.  With virtually every haute couture label in existence within a stones throw away, I was pleasantly surprised to wander down Flinders Lane and find this little gem. 

Cool, funky, and focused on food, I knew as soon as I walked in I was in for a treat.  I settled into a small table and was immediately impressed with the cocktail list.  Innovative and interesting concoctions aplenty, with descriptions that made my mouth water.

Chin Chin Barramundi

Barramundi and Carmelized Pork Belly

I ordered a side and a main dish, both of which ranked among the best things I’ve put in my mouth in a VERY long time.  The main was crispy barramundi with green apple salad, and carmelized pork belly with peanuts, chili, and lemongrass.  It comes with two mounds of food – the fish and salad on one side and pork with chili on the other.  I was told to mix the two together, and what resulted was nothing short of magic.  The barramundi was perfectly light, accented by the tart, tangy sweetness of apples and what seemed like a sauce with a touch of vinegar.  When combined with the deep, rich carmelized flavor of the pork, the heat of the chili, and texture of the peanuts and salad, it all came together in a way that was perfection. 

Son in Law Eggs with Chili

Son in Law Eggs with Chili

The barramundi & pork dish would have been enough to make me sing all by itself.  Fortunately, I also had also ordered the son-in-law eggs with chili – more out of curiosity than anything.  What arrived was pure bliss…think soft boiled egg, battered with the most impossibly light coating, gently fried in such a way that there was not even a hint of oil, shared on a plate with sliced chili, fresh basil, and a tangy, dark sauce that complimented it perfectly.  The softness of the egg combined with the heat and flavor from the chilis and sauce again demonstrated the genius of the chef.  I found myself thinking, where has this dish been all my life? 

Sadly, the next thought was – oh, in Melbourne, Australia….far, far away.  Not exactly somewhere I can visit anytime I like.  However, with another 6 days here, I have no doubt I will have to return to Chin Chin – I simply won’t be able to stay away!

According to their website,  “Chin Chin Restaurant is open 11am till late, 7 days a week and focusses on South-East Asian cuisine with Benjamin Cooper as its executive chef.  We’re modelled on the hawker dining halls of Asia with a shared-eating concept and therefore have a walk-in only policy except for one table of 10-12.  We aim to serve you the freshest ingredients and all our sauces, pastes and relishes are made in-house.  We are open every day of the year except for Xmas day.  Our wine list has an all-Australian focus and every quarter we feature a local winemaker.”