My friend, Anton, celebrated his birthday with us in COCA Restaurant in SM Aura last week. I came straight from work hurriedly, in the hope not to miss much on both food and conversation. Unfortunately, I failed to arrive in time for the appetizers, blaming the heavy traffic along EDSA.
On other news, the mini get-together with my college friends has been fun like always. I also felt glad to be in the company of people who care deeply about what they eat. With that preface out of the way, get ready to dig in!
To give a brief overview, COCA Restaurant was founded in 1957 by Mr. Srichai Phanphensophon and his wife, Mrs. Patama, in Soi Dejo, Thailand. The husband-and-wife tandem started the food business with a small restaurant that could accompany only 20 seaters. But look at how COCA has grown through more than half a decade! It has branches in Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Laos, Myanmar, South Korea and China and just last year (2013), the Philippines.
The name “COCA” is derived from Mandarin “kekou” (可口), which means “appetizing.” In writing, it’s the same “COCA” as in Coca-cola, which in Chinese is “kekou kele” (可口可乐). COCA Restaurant is pioneering in Thai-style “Suki” steamboat dining. With COCA sauce that’s made by the owner himself, customers may rest assure to enjoy a truly mouth-watering experience.
Review of Coca Restaurant (SM Aura Premier, Taguig)
The inviting, warm tones of the dining room spells romance and privacy, bested by the matching dark wood furniture and sheer green curtains. The place looks as outlandish and elegant as ever! It’s easy to judge that COCA Restaurant is a high-caliber, modern place featuring a mix of Thai and Cantonese cooking. At a glance of its chic interior design, I was in awe.
The thing I don’t like in eating crabs is that it has to be messy, and getting its white meat out with spoon and fork or chopsticks proved to be a challenge. COCA Restaurant already knows that, so the waiters often approached us as they offered wet tissue and pincers.
Other good points worth to mention: The attending waiter helped in cooking food in the hotpot and as well helped in moving us from two separate tables to a bigger table where 11 of us could fit. He refilled our empty glasses with water and even replaced mine as requested immediately. He also took our group picture repeatedly in a friendly manner, until we were all satisfied with the quality of the shot. Yay!
We started with the Emperor’s Platter with Ojiya (PHp 2750). Okay, let’s say it all together: it had assorted meat, seafood, vegetables and glass noodles. It’s an admirable execution of shabu-shabu or steamboat-style course. All the ingredients were in the proper size without any of them being overwhelming. My favorite among the bunch has to be the enoki mushrooms! It was a decent foundation of our meal.
Perusing the list of soup bases, we vetoed clear chicken broth (quite bland in taste) on one side and tom yum (sour and spicy) on the other. Both were prepared with fresh ingredients, herbs and spices. The induction plate was right in the middle of our round table. Without the long wait, the broth bubbled away and we began dropping the ingredients into it.
Packed with various items, the hotpot broth had developed more flavor. Some ingredients like the tofu benefited from a longer soak. Soon enough, we got them out using the wire strainer, careful not to overcook.
Along with our pot of steaming broth, we also enjoyed the Pacific Sunset (PHp 1700), which consisted of live king crab, squid, tiger prawn, pork sausage, corn with a hint of spice and aromatics. I could hardly rank the various seafood in order according to my liking, since everything was equally delicious indeed.
The Pacific Sunset came with this platter of garlic bread which was not crunchy as expected. You may forget it and opt for rice instead.
On the menu, COCA offers rice in different variants: Shrimp Fried Rice (PHp 200, Small; PHp 300, Large), Roasted Duck Rice (PHp 280), Roasted Pork Belly Rice (PHp 280), and COCA Yang Chow Fried Rice (PHp 200, Small; PHp 300, Large). I bet the first three are super strong in flavor, so the best, if you still intend to eat flavored rice rather than just plain white rice, would be the Yang Chow. And that’s exactly what we had. The judgement? I loved it, more than David’s Tea House‘s version.
Sliced thinly, against the grain, the tender slips of Steamed US Prime Striploin in Soy Sauce and Ginger (PHp 650) were a chamion. The meat was lean, supple and well-seasoned, like Maru Korean Restaurant‘s beef hash. It gets beefier when you get your second piece. If there’s one complaint to be made, it’s that it runs a tad on the greasy side. But sometimes, that’s exactly what makes it more appealing. In any case, white rice will be a great accompaniment.
Price for Value: ★★☆☆☆
A reliable, recommendable Thai-Cantonese spot is a hard to find these days, so I’m happy to point you to this one. However, unless you’re a gambling man, a meal here (or most other restaurants in SM Aura, for that matter) can feel a little unnerving because of the prices. With exceedingly expensive amount tagged to each dish on COCA Restaurant’s menu, the ordering process is most difficult. You have to make sure to get the right stuff to get your money’s worth, of course.
Then again, if you want to skip navigating the list for long, feel free to order the same dishes we had as these represent a portion of sure-fire hits that are guaranteed to result in return visits.