For Valentines night, love was in the air and my ever organised (darling) girlfriend had booked well ahead of the crowd to get a table at Coda’s new (ish) sister restaurant. I didn’t know what to expect but being Valentines night I let my girlfriend carry me down the scary back alley that leads to Tonka. On first impressions there are similarities between the two restaurants but Tonka has a more clean and fresh look about it.
In Melbourne we are spoilt, unlike anywhere else I’ve been in the world, you’d struggle to go to a high street cafe or restaurant and get a bad meal, generally speaking you have to really pick at things to find negatives. There are however times when I go to places and they blow me away, it’s never a full meal, but just one dish which turns off the part of my brain that regulates saliva production, normal speech and the ability to swallow. I like to call them the big 4;
- Gelato Messina – Fitzroy – Salted Caramel and White Chocolate Gelato
- Chin Chin – CBD – Massaman Curry
- Red Spice Road – CBD – Pork Belly, Apple Slaw, Caramel & Black Vinegar
- Niche – Bridge Road – Corn Fritters, Avocade Mouse, Cajun Creme Fraiche
One thing I love about Coda is the impeccable service, this is replicated in Tonka; we were unsure what to order so the extremely knowledgable staff said they would bring a spread of their favourite dishes. The sommelier then liaised with the waitress to give us an option of 3 wines which would go well, again, he knew his stuff and had been to a number of the vineyards.
We started with Pani puri, crispy parcel filled with spiced potato, mung beans, date and tamarind chutney with aromatic water, as well as Hervey Bay scallop with sweet peppers, spiced cauliflower and pancetta, both dishes were good, nothing amazing but a solid start.
The next thing that happened took me by surprise, extremely similar to the first time I got intimate with a lady, something completely unexpected happened, it came out of no where and unfortunately was over all too quickly. The soft-shell crab pakora with pickled cucumber, lemon, chilli and mint came out, it didn’t look the most appetising dish, however, it makes it onto the ‘Big 5.’ The crab was soft and cooked to perfection, the light batter around the outside had beautifully subtle indian flavours and took me somewhere special.
The next couple of dishes didn’t really stand a chance, like putting Wayne Rooney next to Cristiano Ronaldo, both footballers but very different looking. The chargrilled pork belly we felt was overpowered by the charred taste, it tasted of ash and unfortunately wasn’t quite to my taste. We also had the lamb curry with roasted coconut, black cardamom and white poppy seeds which was delicious as well as the Rajasthani duck, cucumber, mint and buffalo milk curd with a side of fried cauliflower, garam masala salt, fenugreek and yoghurt dressing, again, exceptional food but standing in the shadow of the soft shell crab.
All in all I would whole-heartedly recommend Tonka, taking Indian food to the next level is a tough ask, aspects of Tonka manages this and the attitude and knowledge of the staff is exceptional. We didn’t feel rushed even though we were dining on one of the busiest nights of the year and we had the best seat in the house. Based solely on cuisine and personal choice, I think I preferred Coda, however, would be more than happy to revisit Tonka.
Price – 7
Quality of food – 8
Atmosphere – 9
Take a look at my review of Mr Carsisi!