It's quite a hike from Paris to Tokyo, but Robina's hidden gem Cocotte Dining bridges the vast distance with ease. Opened in late 2011 by chef Shunichi Tanabe, Cocotte Dining blends classical French cooking techniques with the flair for beautifully-presented fresh produce that Japanese cuisine is famous for.
Cocotte Dining is located in a sprawling open-air shopping mall and, at first glance, it looks like a small 12-seater bistro. What isn't apparent from the outside, though, is the courtyard out back which seats a further 40 people under the shade of palms, and canvas umbrellas. When Tanabe took over the premises, it took him and his friends and family members two months to transform what was formerly a real estate office (and, before that, an Italian restaurant) into the lush, leafy oasis it is today.
Cocotte Dining's menus meander effortlessly from Europe to Asia. Cocotte is a French word meaning casserole and aptly reflects Tanabe's passion for slow, home-style cooking methods, such as stewing, braising and soup making. But rather than taking the traditional route to, say, beef bourguignon, what emerges from the open kitchen here is something altogether more adventurous. For example, Cocotte's signature dish is ox tail and beef cheek, slow cooked in red wine, sake and three different kinds of miso, and then rested to obtain a matured, milder flavour.
The affordable lunch menu options include beef curry simmered and slow cooked to perfection, and tempura fish and chips with wasabi mayonnaise. I opted for the teriyaki chicken thigh fillet served with rice, sauteed greens and garden salad. This recipe features free range chicken sourced from the Sunshine Coast and the restaurant's original teriyaki sauce, with predictably delicious results. In the evening, diners can order a la carte if they don't quite have the appetite to tackle a six-course degustation menu incorporating dishes such as sashimi, seared Hokkaido scallops, and free range crispy skin pork belly.
The dessert I had was, quite simply, divine. Think figs, poached in red wine with spices like star anise, cinnamon and cloves, topped with brie and quince and served with triple cream brie ice cream, chocolate meringue and nougatine. Other sources of sweetness include the dark chocolate souffle and spiced rum and chestnut tart. All desserts come with drinking recommendations, and I'd certainly suggest you raise your glass to that.