Coca Restaurant: A Family Tradition
In the country’s ever bourgeoning restaurant market, a new participant has set its eyes on the Philippines. Coca Restaurant may be new in the country but it’s definitely not new to the restaurant scene. This restaurant sports a 56 year family heritage in providing its own kind of food and experience to its customers. Coca started way back in 1957 with a 20 seat capacity Cantonese restaurant in Thailand and was founded by Mr. Srichai Phanphensophon and his wife Mrs. Patama.
The name “Coca” is derived from the Mandarin word of “Kekou”, which means “appetizing”. The restaurant is famous for its variety of what is called Thai Suki, or simply “Suki”, which is a Thai variant of hot pot where you cook fresh vegetables, meat, and dumplings in a hot broth and you dip your food into a spicy “sukiyaki sauce” before eating.
The new phase of Coca started in 1984 when the reins were handed over to their son, Mr. Pitaya Phanphensophon. With his leadership the restaurant has now expanded all over the world, with restaurants in Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Laos, Myanmar, South Korea, China, and now the Philippines. The Philippine branch is now open at the Sky Park, 5th Floor, SM Aura in Taguig City.
An elegant dining experience at CocaEating at Coca can only be described as an experience. If you’re familiar with Thai cuisine, then you can expect the food to be full of fresh herbs. Coca is a mixture of Thai and Cantonese, and thus provides an invigorating new taste for the experienced diner. The next few dishes will try to capture that experience in a nutshell.
The first dish that captured my attention was the Crispy Roasted Pork Belly (P320). It’s the Coca version of our liempo. It’s served crispy and with a portion of mustard on the side to add to its taste. I usually don’t eat the fat when it comes to pork dishes, but it was hard to stick to my diet with this one. I just had to eat the entire piece, fat and all.
Crispy Roasted Pork Belly: crispylicious with a dab of mustardAnother dish that I liked was the Hong Kong Style BBQ Pork with Honey Glaze (P300). It wasn’t the typical sweet meat dish that you know from other Chinese restaurants. It is tender, and the taste doesn’t just scream at you--you get to experience it instead.
Hong Kong Style BBQ Pork with Honey Glaze
Tender and tastyI am also a big fan of fish, and Coca's Live Steamed Garoupa with Lime Sauce (P1,200) delivered a taste for me that I immediately liked. The fish is steamed and comes with a garlic lemon sauce. It’s one of Coca’s signature dishes. This dish definitely has a taste that jumps out at you with its herbal and lemony flavor.
Live Steamed Garoupa with Lime Sauce
A lot of herbs and lemonsAnother seafood dish that was served was the Steamed King Crab with Egg Custard (P1, 350). Coca is proud of using the market-to-restaurant concept and thus has live seafood right in the restaurant to make sure that what is served is as fresh as possible. This was definitely fresh, and it comes out in the taste of the dish.
Steamed King Crab with Egg Custard
Prawns with Garlic & Chili
House Special Roast Duck
Roasted duck at its bestCoca Restaurant is a well known suki restaurant so I’ve been saving that dish for last. They have a very special suki sauce that is very good; so good in fact that the recipe is so secret that they do not sell it outside of the restaurant. You can only have it with your food whe you dine in, and so it’s recommended to try out the hot pot when you visit Coca. The suki comes in three different versions, all with an assortment of vegetables and meats/seafood. You can cook your food in a mixture of Tom Yum and broth.
- Red Fire Platter (P1,100) - Assorted Meat, Vegetables and Glass Noodles
- Blue Ocean Platter (P1,500) - Assorted Seafood, Vegetables and Glass Noodles
- Emperor’s Platter with Khao Tom (P2,750) - Assorted Meat, Seafood, Vegetables and Glass Noodles
Assorted Suki Platter
Prime US Beef
Dip and cook...
...and then eat!If you want the whole Suki experience, I suggest you get the option with the Khao Tom (P280). This is a delicious combination of rice slowly cooked in the suki broth, all with a serving of sesame oil, egg, spring onions, and fried garlic. It’s congee done the Thai way. All the veggies and meat/seafood you cooked in the broth before adds to the overall taste of the congee. So the more ingredients you ordered, the tastier the Khao Tom will be.
The hot pot in actionYou can also order all the veggies, meat, and seafood separately or as an add-on to the platter you’ve ordered in case you feel that the meat, seafood, or veggies aren’t enough for you.
Coca Restaurant, although it has gone global, is still run with family tradition at its core. As Chef Pitaya Phanphensophon said during one of his quick stops at the table, “I will not serve food to you that I will not serve to my children.” Now that is encouraging and definitely a family tradition worth emulating. And with the new generation of chefs (his daughter) coming in, we’re looking forward to the new chapter of Coca Restaurant with the Philippine branch right at the front line.