61 Fitzroy Street,
Surry Hills, Sydney
T: +61 2 9358 5388
Chef: Connor Phung
For photos click here.
For Jonas’ birthday in October a group of eight gathered to sample the tasting menu at Cochin, a restaurant famous for its fusion of French and South East Asian cuisines. Although absorbing attributes from all over the region, chef Connor Phung does lean heavily on his Vietnamese heritage and his French culinary training.
The venue was small and intimate, with large dark wood tables and wooden chairs softened with leather cushions. Diners were huddled together at close quarters but this added to the enhanced atmosphere of the small room.
Staff were very friendly and obliging but unfortunately confused. Between our three waiters we learnt what each dish contained, but this was a team effort because not one of them could give a solo explanation of a dish. This may be a product of the usual customers, people in groups just wanting the enjoy the long pace of a tasting menu, but our table was very interested in each dish and was surprised that the waiters didn’t pick up on this and arrived more prepared.
Although Cochin catered well for vegetarians (which I had checked when booking), our waiter did a poor version of selling it to us. He downplayed the quality of the vegetarian meal ($69) and was very concerned that the vegetarians would get a bad deal compared to the omnivores ($79). He wanted to manage expectations but he made their meal sound terribly negative before it even commenced and this put a slight dampen on the beginning.
In the end the two vegetarians at our table were more than pleased with the meal they received. Out of the possible fourteen courses, vegetarians could enjoy seven and those eating seafood could eat nine. It sounds rough, but the portions were significantly increased to compensate and the price was reduced a little as well. Cochin, be proud of your menus!
And here it is, the tasting menu in full.
Hot & Cold Pea Soup w Mint Oil (V)
A shot glass was layered with cold pea soup, icy and crunchy, then topped with the very same soup heated through, warm and smooth. The surface was drizzled with mint oil to deliver a strange start to the meal.
Pork Terrine w Duck Liver Foam
A crunchy biscuit was topped with a thick slice of sweet pork terrine. Shredded lotus root provided a refreshing contrast and duck liver foam was a mashed pate, earthy and sweet at once. Garnished with a neat coriander leaf, I was surprised that I enjoyed this option, considering I dislike pate immensely and more often than not turn my nose up at terrine. This obvious fusion between French and Vietnamese won me over.
Crispy Boneless Chicken & Cauliflower Risotto Rice Paper Roll
Spiced heavily with salt and pepper, the chicken skin was certainly crispy while the flesh remained moist. The risotto had an elegant flavour and the overall presentation was an open rice paper roll. Squiggles of peppered aioli added extra kick and the overall flavour combination provided a delicious mild burn of black pepper. I really enjoyed this.
Cucumber & Mint Sorbet (V)
This was more like an ice than a sorbet because the consistency was not smooth at all. The flavour was refreshingly cucumber with a strong mint finish. Unfortunately it was half melted liquid - half ice and had spilt out of the little spoons and onto the plate. In the end it was a little boring, but did clean the palate in preparation for the seafood dishes.
Scampi & Green Mango Salad
Shredded green mango was dressed in a sweet ginger and rice wine sauce and served with pieces of grilled scampi. The flesh was plump and sweet with a slight smokiness from the grilling and the mango added a fresh sour edge. The proportion of scampi to mango salad was a little low, but the flavours were excellent.
Tuna w Sesame & Cucumber
Morsels of delicious tuna had been lightly seared and kept raw and pink on the inside. Scattered with black sesame seeds and strips of cucumber, the fish was dressed with a light soy. A wonderful course!
Straw Mushrooms w Garlic & Coconut (V)
Served like garlic champignons at a tapas bar were slippery gem-like straw mushrooms, floating in a pan of sugary, garlicky coconut sauce. This simple dish tasted absolutely divine.
Beetroot & Capsicum w Ginger Vinaigrette (V)
Beetroot and yellow capsicum had been roasted and dressed in ginger vinaigrette. Following the concept of pickled vegetables, this dish added a sweet-sour element to the meal.
Lotus Root & Rice Crackers (V)
Encased in rice cracker cups were served the tiny diced lotus roots. Their classic tubular Stems mixed with what I think was shredded coconut as well as mint and coriander.
Slow Cooked Duck w Fermented Tofu & Brandy Sauce
Duck legs and partial cuts of breast came cooked in a rich, red broth of brandy and pungent fermented tofu. The sauce took on a mild, alcoholic kick and was quite sweet. The duck flaked away from the bone easily, but the flesh itself was not very rich. I loved the red sauce and drenched it over accompanying rice.
Peanut Tofu, Fried Shallots & Watercress (V)
This was probably the highlight of my evening. The extremely soft tofu disintegrated at the touch of the spoon like melting jelly and the rich, wonderful peanut flavour had permeated every morsel. Fried shallots added crunchy texture but the watercress was a little superfluous. Unbelievably good dish.
Rack of Lamb w Mirepoix & Cabernet Sauvignon Sauce
Gorgeous French-trim lamp chops were cooked to rosy perfection and elegantly paired with a red wine sauce. The sauce was described as a mirepoix base, but I only noticed onion and carrot. The celery seemed to be missing from the culinary holy trinity. Nonetheless, this was scrumptious and I thoroughly enjoyed this course.
Venison w Chocolate Sauce
Our last savoury dish was juicy, pink venison doused in savoury chocolate. The strong game meat matched well with the bittersweet chocolate sauce. The meat came on a bed of braised cabbage and was a quirky mix of Mexican and Eastern European cuisine.
Green Apple Sorbet (V)
Again, the sorbet was not smooth and elegant but had an extremely icy texture. The flavour was sweet yet refreshing and so had it been the right texture I would have adored this palate cleanser. Such a shame each sorbet was so icy.
Crepe Suzette w Candied Cumquats (V)
Flat crepes were cooked in the traditional way and topped with vanilla ice cream and sweet, intense cumquat preserve. This was tasty, yet the generous serving of jam was slightly overpowering.
Dessert Platter (V)
These five exquisite little desserts were a great end to the meal. An Espresso Marquise was thick, moussey and rich with chocolate. The Raspberry-Rum Chocolate Cream couldn’t go wrong with the divine pairing of luscious raspberry and dark chocolate. I simply adore this combination. The Ginger & Rhubarb crumble had a strong kick of ginger spice and the Lime & Ginger Brûlée was tangy and refreshing. The Cardamom Parfait with Pandan & Palm Sugar Syrup was probably my favourite because the cardamom ice cream was such an elegant surprise. Spicy and cold all at once and the slight bitterness of the cardamom contrasted nicely with the green, sweetness of the pandan syrup.
Coffee w Condensed Milk (V)
As most meals do, Cochin’s degustation ended with coffee. This was a strong Vietnamese style coffee laced with thick, sweet condensed milk. Since I don’t drink coffee I’m told it was very good but very sweet.
With our meal we drank:
2005 Jim Barry Watervale Riesling (Clare Valley, SA, Australia)
2004 Forrest Estate Gewürtztraminer (Marlborough, New Zealand)
2004 Waipura Hills Gewürtztraminer (Marlborough, New Zealand)
Gewürtztraminer (my pick) and Riesling are excellent wines to pair with the spicy, strong flavours of South East Asian cuisine.
Overall, a good meal with loads of food in a funky yet elegant dining room. Cochin is well worth a visit.
For the full photo album, click here.
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south east asia south east asian food