One of my favorite Asian destinations is Thailand. I like how it looks and feels like the Philippines, except the public transportation is better, there are more shopping options, and the local culture is embraced and respected. One of the must-see things in Thailand is a visit to the historic Grand Palace and Ayutthaya. Another is to try the local cuisine. I love Thai cuisine’s complexity of colors, flavors, and smells. Recently, I discovered Coca Restaurant at SM Aura, a Thai import that will soon fulfill my Thai food cravings.
Coca Restaurant is a well-known hot pot place in Thailand. It was established in 1957 by Srichai Phanphensophon and his wife Patama, who created authentic recipes using fresh ingredients. The restaurant opened in Manila around 2013, and I’m a little surprised it took me this long to discover this Thai gem.
I got to Coca Restaurant’s Thai food and here’s what I thought:
We started off our meal with the Salmon Grapow Cups, or stir-fried salmon with hot basil and chili served in fried wonton wrapper cups. I almost didn’t recognize the salmon as it was cooked in a unique way, but I liked how the chefs dared to cook things differently. It was a sign of things to come. And oh, the salmon grapow cups come with a kick so make sure to pair it with some Thai iced tea (P90)!
For our second appetizer, we had the Roast Duck Salad (P380), a light yet filling dish that’s more roast duck than salad (not complaining). The serving of roast duck was generous, and it was tender and flavorful. It mixed well with the crispy skin, the crunchy cucumbers, and the watermelon chunks that provided a refreshing and surprising burst.
Coca Restaurant has four Thai signature hotpots, and we got to try the Red Fire Platter (P1,400++), a combination of assorted meats, vegetables, and glass noodles. You can make your own broth in a large pot you can divide to two, but the soups we were served were already prepared as we were a group of bloggers.
The bowl on the left is a delicious tom yum soup, which has a rich flavor profile that pops in your mouth. The balance of sour and spicy is perfect and the more I think about it, the more I start to miss it. The bowl on the right is a mild chicken broth that’s more subdued than the tom yum. Some people may find it bland but I appreciate how it balances the more assertive tom yum.
The star of the meal was the Pacific Sunset (P1,950), an imposing dish with a live king crab, squid, tiger prawn, pork sausage, and corn, drenched in various spices that give it a strong and powerful flavor. The crab, prawn, and corn are hard to eat, but they’re worth it for the taste of the sauce.
Even if the star of the meal was the Pacific Sunset, my favorite dish was the Squid with Salted Egg (P380), a humble squid dish elevated by the trendy salted egg coating. The salted egg was generous and it was the actual yolk of the egg instead of just a powdered substitute. I loved it so much that I couldn’t count how many servings I had.
Yang Chow Fried Rice (small: P220 / large: P320) isn’t traditionally Thai food, but it’s a welcome addition to Coca Restaurant’s menu. Asians, especially Filipinos, don’t consider a dish without rice a meal, so adding this to their menu was a smart move. The flavor isn’t too strong so it balanced the flavor scale.
We wrapped up our meal with the Galorgee (small: P250 / large: P450), Coca Restaurant’s signature dessert. It reminded me of the palitaw, with peanuts, sugar, and sesame seeds. Like the Yang Chow Fried Rice, it has a more subtle flavor to complement the previous courses we enjoyed. It’s deep-fried glutinous rice, so I only had a little.
I haven’t been to Thailand in so long, and each time I remember it, I think about the delicious food I had there. It’s a good thing that Coca Restaurant is now in Manila, so I have a place to go to to relive my Bangkok memories.
Coca Restaurant is located in the 5F Sky Park, SM Aura Premier, McKinley Parkway, Taguig
Afraid of waiting in line? Book a table using the Seats app and seamlessly reserve at partner restaurants, including Coca Restaurant at SM Aura, at your own time. Seats is free to use, and is available on the App Store and the Google Play Store.