COCHIN WINE BAR AND RESTAURANT: 256 Swan St, Richmond
PHONE: 9421 0510
When you enter Cochin Wine Bar and Restaurant, it is akin to arriving at the home of a good friend prior to dinner.
Immediately you are made to feel welcome, as the aroma of meals under preparation or being brought to tables waft through the air as a tantalizing prelude to the meal.
It is casual dining at its best, with a menu that allows you to drift from smaller tapas-style dishes to a choice of banquets, paired with local and French wines, all at affordable prices.
The food is described by Cochin owner Jason Baker as Vietnamese with a French twist. It presents with all the fresh flavours you would expect, but with subtle overtones in some dishes that hark back to the French occupation of parts of Indochina until 1954.
The dishes, as listed on the menu, set the tone. There is Duck a L'orange, but significantly different to the French classic. The duck leg is slow roasted with fresh orange reduction, but topped with chilli and spring onion, to add sharpness to the sweetness of the orange ($38).
Adding to the French connection, is a share plate of Chateaubriand, served medium-rare with a five pepper and mushroom sauce adding some Asian punch, ($48).
Popular among the locals is the small share plate of Fried Quail, a dish of three half birds, deep fried and tender, topped with a traditional Vietnamese sauce ($25). Another favourite is the Tom Chien Com, prawns in a rice crisp batter with pineapple dipping mayonnaise ($18).
It seemed that every second table started with those two dishes.
We started with the perfect pork and prawn spring rolls ($18), followed by the Shaking Beef ($38), a mouth-watering combination of tender eye -fillet cubes, wok-fried with onion capsicum, garlic and black pepper in a light oyster sauce. To finish, a Traditional Mekong Salad, a refreshing dish served with sweet and sour vinaigrette, filled the bill perfectly.
It really is worth a return visit.