Of betel and bugs: eating out in Australia – colourful

Eating out in Australia is always a treat.  Colourful, with multi-stranded influences, Melbourne (pictured) is as exciting a melting pot as any in which to dip your toe.

The only problem might be narrowing down where to go – recommendations came thick and fast!  Golden Fields in St Kilda, Movida, Movida Next Door, Coda, Chin Chin.

Fortunately for me, wine, travel and food writer Jane Faulkner was free to hook up for a bite so, naturally, I deferred to the local.  Coda it was – some of the most palate tickling, lipsmacking small plates I’ve had in  a while.

On a night off, Faulkner and I were more than happy to place ourselves in the very capable hands of one of Australia Top 5 Best Australian Sommeliers, 2011, the engagingly easy-going but on it Travis Howe.   I didn’t take notes but I do recall that glasses of Weingut Keller Riesling, Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc and Tom Carson’s Serrat and Ata Rangi’s Crimson Pinot Noirs passed my lips!

As for the roll call of food, topping the list were Tempura bugs, Roy Choi’s kimchi, chilli salt and soy dipping sauce and Spanner crab, galangal, roasted chilli and lime betel leaf.  Not far behind these two palate searingly good, high definition dishes: freshly shucked Pacific oyster with a mirin and finger lime dressing, Eggplant and tofu lettuce delight, enoki mushroom, crispy garlic and black vinegar, Hà Nôi style crispy rice paper roll with nuoc mam dipping sauce, Hervey Bay scallop, pearl tapioca and Yarra Valley salmon caviar and That’s Amore Buffalo mozzarella, zucchini fritters, mint and pea salad.  Small sharing plates I might add!

Here are some other fine dining recommendations from my visit:

Tasmania: Smolt and Ethos (Hobart), Black Cow (Launceston), Freycinet Marine Farm (Freycinet Peninsula, pictured)

Yarra Valley: Healesville Hotel (Healesville, porch pictured with the South Pack dudes), Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander Bistro (Healesville)

Mornington Peninsula: Paringa Estate

Granite Belt: Shiraz (Ballandean), Banca Ridge Bistro at The Queensland College of Wine Tourism Restaurant (pictured, Stanthorpe) Ballandean Estate (I have to admit that I was treated to Ballandean’s matriarch Mary Puglisi’s homecooked sublime gnocchi here but I’m very sure that the chefs who have taken over the cooking from Mary more than pass muster under her vigilant eye!)

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  1. Natasha Hughes

    Good to see Coda’s still firing on all cylinders. I was there shortly after it opened a couple of years ago, and was impressed by both the inventive small-plates food and the diversity of the wine list.

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