Thursday, August 1, 2013


With Mr. Trevor McKenzie, Managing Director of COCA Group of Restaurants
           I’m really fascinated with restaurants that serve family dishes that have been passed along for generations, but with their own special twist! And this is COCA restaurant’s legacy. Mr. Pitaya Phanphensophon, the CEO of COCA international Co. Ltd. Told us a simple yet powerful statement that night. “I would not serve you anything that I would not serve my children”. And this is precisely how it should be.

            Just a little history:  This restaurant started back in 1957 when Mr. Pitaya’s parents Mr. Srichai Phanphensophon with his wife Mrs. Patama opened a 20-seater restaurant that immediately became a huge hit, until they moved to a different location (Soi Tantawan) and eventually expanded to a 150-seater restaurant.  From there, everything was history! Suki style cooking was introduced. And this, my friends, was the birth of COCA Restaurant. (COCA derived from “Kekou” which means appetizing. 

       And I gotta tell you, “appetizing” is an understatement! 

Mr. Pitaya Phanphensophon, a hands-on CEO of COCA Group of Restaurants.
 At first I thought he was the chef!
                Its always nice to see big bosses be so hands on with their business. The whole night, Mr. Pitaya was all over the restaurant, making sure the food is presented beautifully. He was the one fixing the presentation, and he was the one cooking for us that night!

             I thought that there was going to be a lot of people that night but it was actually an intimate event. We shared a table with 5 other media guests from different magazines and websites. It was nice to taste the dishes with the CEO himself cooking for you in an intimate setting

           The place had a formal classy vibe to it. Not the fancy porcelain type of stuff. It was a bit dim, but at the same time it had that unwind vibe to it. The thing you have to know about COCA is that they use only fresh ingredients. Their fish are still swimming in tanks right before they cook it. It’s that fresh. And it’s really apparent in the taste. You know how they say that spicy food is really appetizing? Well it’s a true story here in COCA. The amount of heat that they add to their dishes are just perfect. Not too hot that you feel like chugging down a gallon of milk, and not too mild either. It really made me want to eat more and more with each bite.

Note: They were still finalizing their menu (dish names and prices) as this post was being written so I just put the general description of the dishes for now.

          The meal started off with something that looks like was made for Richie. The Roasted Pork Belly.  It was a huge slab of pork belly, roasted to a perfect crisp, and cut into huge cubes. The fat to meat ratio was I’d guess 50/50 which is why Richie fell in love with this dish completely. It’s served with a bit of mustard to add a little twist to the taste and it worked!

          The Roasted Sweet Pork was also really good. It’s sweet cuts of pork that melts in your mouth. Soft and sweet!

          Their In-House Roasted Duck is extra special because they have their own special duck roaster thing which ensures the softness of the duck while retaining all that flavour! Another melt in your mouth dish! The sweetness is just right with a hint of ginger taste.

           The Garlic Chilli Prawns are huge. One of the media people that we dined with was allergic to prawns and I felt really bad for her because it was so good! The smell alone was so good already. And once you taste it, it’s packed with just the right amount of heat and garlic! Yum! My only qualm would be taking the meat off the shell. For some reason the piece that I had was hard to take out of it’s shell so I ended up with shredded pieces of shrimp.

           COCA has a Chicken en Papillote which I’m so sorry Richie missed. His family has a papillote recipe of their own so he really likes this stuff. Papillote is a method of cooking wherein you wrap the meat inside a paper bag or a sheet of paper which keeps the moisture and flavor locked inside while being baked. And how moist the chicken was! It was really juicy, seasoned well, and again, melts in your mouth!

          This was one of the most delicious fish dishes I have ever tried. There’s a number of different flavors bursting in your mouth all at the same time. This Steamed fish with lime sauce has coriander, chilli and garlic, among other things. Again, this dish was packed with heat which makes you want to eat more. After a few bites I could feel my nose starting to get runny hahaha! But again, nothing a normal person with a normal tolerance for heat can’t handle.

         Okay, I don’t really eat crabs because I don’t know how to crack it open. (I know right?) But I still tried their Steamed Crab dish anyway because it looked so good! It was swimming in a plate of creamy sauce. Not sure if it was cheese or something but it was really creamy and light! I was able to pick out a few meat from the crab part that I had. It was soft and seasoned well. I didn't even get to use the crab cracker tool thing (again because I wasn't sure how and where to crack the crab) But I’m pretty sure there was still a lot of meat there somewhere that wasn't accessible to me and my fork.

        And so the famous hot pot began. And as they were preparing the hot pot per se, I got face to face with their famous Suki Sauce. They say the recipe for the suki sauce is so confidential. They don’t share it with just anyone, even with their own staff / employee. It was that good. And so I couldn't wait to try it! But first, we need to cook the beef sukiyaki

        Just get a piece of the beef sukiyaki, put it in your little strainer (each customer gets their own), and just submerge it in the hot pot. Careful not to overcook it. Just until the red color fades into a light brown. 

Their famous Suki Sauce!
         Once cooked, dip the whole thing in your suki sauce and then you will experience nirvana! Oh my goodness it’s one of the best sauces I have ever tried I kid you not! Dump anything in it and it will taste excellent. 

          Be it meat or veggies or noodles, it's good with the suki sauce! Another appetizing creation masterpiece by COCA.  The sweetness and the heat plus the herbs are all fighting in your mouth. Suki sauce for me is the secret weapon of COCA!

         And lastly, the Congee. They cooked it right in front of us using the broth from the hot pot. They put two cups of cooked rice, egg, garlic, some oil, and a bit of soy sauce...

 I think they also usually add some crab meat but since one of us was allergic to shellfish, we did without it. It was still good! But of course, being a lover for salty food, I wanted to add fish sauce hehe.

        The night was capped off with two great desserts with a twist! First is the  pancake dessert. It’s layers of sticky fried pancakes, with peanuts, sesame seeds, and sugar. But since they are still finalizing the presentation / plating of this dessert, I can’t share photos of it yet. But rest assured it’s really good! It’s sweet and crunchy! Need I say more?

        Next was the Almond Milk with gingko nuts. Everyone seemed to love it. Richie really loved it especially the almond milk. I looked around the table and everyone seemed to finish their share. But personally, I’m not a fan of super fragrant food. The milk was really fragrant to me that it almost had a flowery taste.  And the gingko nuts were too bitter for me.

       Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that it was their first time to dry run the kitchen that night. The quality tasted like they’ve been cooking in that kitchen for years. Everything was delicious. COCA will be officially open on July 30th and I can’t wait to go back to try their other dishes! Maybe we’ll see you guys there? 

      Again congratulations to COCA Restaurant Philippines!

The CEOs give a thumbs up!
Mr. Eric Teng (CEO of Mother Spice Food Corp) and Mr. Pitaya Phanphensophon (CEO of COCA Group of Restaurants)

Team of Mother Spice Food Corporation and COCA Group of Restaurant. 

With Mr. Phanphensophon and Mr. Teng

Other Meals:

Shrimp kebab anyone?
A lovely tofu dish

Prawns in a delightful coating
I enjoyed their sangria very much!

An interesting chili mojito drink!

Coca Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


  1. Wow interesting and delicious looking dishes...

  2. I used to eat at Coca when I was living in Cambodia. I discovered that with friends in Bangkok then later they opened an outlet in Phnom Penh. They serve great food. Glad they're here in the country na.

    1. Hope you can visit them and compare the quality to the food from the branch you tried! Lemme know what you think!

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