Like Broadsheet, Coda turned 10 this year. In a city obsessed with what’s new and cool, it’s remarkable how little the place has changed since 2009. Apart from a few dabs of paint and a new bar top, it looks pretty much the same, from the distinctive chicken-wire lampshades to the brutalist cement walls. Dishes such as the yellow duck curry and the Hervey Bay scallop with caviar and pearl tapioca have become classics.
It's a Saturday when Broadsheet visits, and as the clock edges towards 5pm the last large lunch group finally heads off, so co-owner and executive chef Adam D’Sylva rallies the team for prawn and zucchini spaghettini.
He’s been making this pasta – a riff on aglio e olio (garlic and oil) – for seven or eight years now at both Coda and at his mod-Indian diner Tonka. It’s become a staff favourite, and was even served at the “last supper” for sommelier Travis Howe when he left to open Carlton Wine Room.
The chefs and waiters – about 15 people all up – serve themselves from an enormous pot in the kitchen before taking seats at the bar. The banter pauses for a moment as everyone attacks their plates. The first dinner guests will be here at 6pm. That’s 45 minutes away and there’s still a bit to do, including briefing the front-of-house team.
Prawn and zucchini spaghettini
Recipe by Adam D’Sylva, executive chef at Coda and Tonka
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
250g good quality spaghettini
150ml olive oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
4 bird’s eye chillies, finely sliced
100ml white wine
2 zucchini, grated
1 sprig thyme
24 large prawn cutlets
½ bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Salt a large pot of water to taste like the sea, then bring to boil. Add spaghettini and boil until ¾ cooked – so still quite underdone. Reserve 2 cups of pasta water before straining pasta.
Meanwhile, place a heavy-based pot over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Sauté the garlic and chilli until aromatic. Deglaze with the white wine. Add the zucchini, thyme and 1 cup of pasta water. Cook the zucchini until it becomes tender and breaks down.
Add more pasta water, then the prawns, spaghettini and parsley. Stir constantly, until the prawns are cooked and pasta is coated in sauce. Check the seasoning (there should be enough salt from the pasta water), add freshly cracked pepper and serve.
This story originally appeared in Melbourne print issue 28 titled "Staff Meal with Coda".