Fine-dining restaurants seemingly abound in Auckland, most serving contemporary Western dishes, with a strong presence of red meat on the menu. In all this, it is refreshing to see a restaurant take a different route. Coco Restaurant is a fine-dining modern Vietnamese restaurant, with Western influences, with no a hint of steak on the menu.
Coco Restaurant is a hidden from the main road, tucked behind the roundabout at Royal Oak. This little gem is garnering a appreciative following. I’ve been here twice now, and the food has only gotten better. The chefs/owners (one Vietnamese and the other Malaysian) have taken cues from their cuisines to present some uniquely delicious combinations. There is a choice of 4 entrees, 4 mains and 3 desserts, and a choice of 5-, 6- or 7-course degustation. My dining party had purchased vouchers for the 5-course degustation at the discounted price of $99 for two (usually $80 each).
I can’t comment on the wine list since I am a teetotaler. However, I was very glad to see that they serve Antipodes water, my favourite brand of sparkling mineral water.
We started with an amuse bouche of prawn summer roll, with its fresh herbs and hoisin sauce.
The first course turned out to be my favourite. The lemongrass scented butternut pumpkin soup was velvety smooth, accompanied by a quenelle of sweet crabmeat, a slice of toasted brioche smeared with peanut butter and topped with lemongrass powder and lightly picked carrot. The soup was also sprinkled with crushed brioche. The combination of flavours and textures made this a standout.
The next course was squid three ways; – seared squid body, marinated re-hydrated squid tentacles and squid ink noodles. The squid tentacles are a common Asian dried foodstuff, and it was great to see it on a restaurant dish. However, this is also one of those ingredients that takes some getting used to; it’s strong flavoured and chewy. The squid was served on a pine nut puree with Vietnamese papaya salad.
The pork belly was perfectly cooked, tender, but still held together, with the flavourful gelatinous fatty layer melting in your mouth. Coco’s interpretation was dressed in a feijoa sauce, and served with a king prawn with prawn sprinkled, pickled carrots, mushrooms (shiitake and oyster) and green bean/coconut puree.
Then, there was the salmon. This was poached until silky, drizzled with chilli aioli and served in a fermented soy broth which is poured at the table. The dish also features a squid ink ravioli.
The pandan panna cotta was sublime when I last visited, and I was so pleased to see that it has remained on the menu. The panna cotta has a perfect custard-y consistency, though I would have liked a stronger pandan flavour. Then add the banana slices, guava coulis, the exceptional kalamansi lime sorbet all topped off with toasted coconut shreds (and was that popcorn pieces?). It all worked spectacularly.
A few of the dinner party chose the chocolate pave which was served with poached pear and freeze-dried raspberries. This was simply stunning on the plate.
The dishes are generous, and to tell the truth, I could do with smaller servings. Every dish was well thought out, the flavours cleverly balanced, with interplay of textures. The staff are attentive, knowledgeable and friendly. You really could not ask for more. Coco only gets better with time, and I look forward to many years of exquisite dining.
*UPDATE Coco Restaurant & Wine Bar shut on 10 November 2014. We had fantastic meals there, and the service was always excellent. We thank Daniel & his team for their efforts with Coco and wish them all the very best. We will miss Coco.
Coco Restaurant & Wine Bar
126 Symonds Street, Royal Oak, Auckland
Ph: 09 – 624 5678
Open Tues – Sun 5:30pm until late