In Short: Coya in Sydney’s leafy suburb of Cromer is one of those very special opportunities to experience the culmination of refined culinary creations in a relaxed and welcoming environment. Chef Saleh has used his decades of world-class talent to take diners on a journey through tastes and textures that are infused with flavours and techniques from both east and west. Coya is a rare gem in Sydney’s foodscape and needs to be at the very top of every foodie’s list. Tip: The degustation menu offers one of the best values you’ll find anywhere to experience food that is truly of a global caliber. Yes, it’s that good!
Just wow! I mean, there’s not much else I need to say about what Chef Ashraf Saleh @chefashrafsaleh2468 has created at Coya @coyacromer in the in leafy valleys of Cromer on Sydney’s North Shore. Who would have guessed that when our friends at AGFG recommended we try Coya out, that it would turn out to be one of the very best foodie experiences we’ve had in Sydney, nestled in these quaint surrounds?
So many times, we’ve visited restaurants that have wowed us with their space and views, only to have the food feel a little like a second thought. Not so with Coya. Chef Saleh is clearly a master of every ingredient he brings into his kitchen. From presentation to palate, every aspect of Coya’s menu is executed with a clarity of purpose. While the flavours have undeniable influences of the East, they are also complimented with refinement and techniques of the West. Combine this perfectly balanced and sophisticated fusion approach with an uncompromising attention to the quality of ingredients, and Coya has to be one of the true hidden treasures of the Sydney food scene.
Our warm and engaging host for this very special evening is Kit, and knowing exactly what us blogging types need to get our job done, she seats us in the perfect location to watch Chef Saleh’s kitchen in action.
So, every adventure starts with the first step, and our first step into Coya’s inspired creations is the delicate starter of Tasmanian Salmon Nayeh. Tender layers of ocean infused salmon are crowned with a garden of colours and textures. Crisp cucumber, chilli, lime, coriander, and sumac vinaigrette all play like high notes atop the bass tones of succulent salmon to create an orchestral explosion of flavours with each bite. What a way to open the show!
Every restaurant has a dish that is a customer favourite. It’s the plate that the kitchen knows will hit a home run every time it leaves the pass. At Coya, that dish is the King Prawns. Sumac and piquillo pepper puree coalesce to glaze unbelievably fresh prawns that glisten like carefully placed jewels on a flourish of raspberry vinaigrette. There’s all the sensation of the sea you’d expect from such quality seafood, with a uniquely refined and subtle heat from the peppery glaze. It’s easy to see why Chef keeps this winner on the menu!
Like satisfying veggie meatball morsels, the Fried Cauliflower offers up a crunchy and moist, sweet citrus, vinegary sensation that is head and shoulders above our previous experiences with this dish in other eateries.
Black Angus Short Ribs is the next plate of the magic to grace our table. Impossibly tender meat infused with distinct Middle Eastern notes is crested with burnt broccoli and a rainbow crown of veggies. Again, quality comes through in the mouthfeel and depth of flavour that has an interesting complexity to excite the tastebuds, but never confuses with conflicting tastes.
From the turf back to the surf, the Cone Bay Barramundi has been pulled fresh from the water and onto the plate in what tastes like minutes. There’s nothing to overpower the delicate flavours of the fish, but the complementing sage, artichoke, capers, beurre noisette, and saffron potatoes all do their part to lift the barra up with texture, and frame it’s natural nuances perfectly.
Fermented pumpkin, pomegranate, and herb vinaigrette spark the tongue to life as they mingle with the sweetly smoky Grilled Eggplant and Haloumi. Haloumi anything and I’m sold, but this goes to a whole new heavenly haloumi level. Coya has nailed this dish in every way. It’s beautiful to behold, and tastes even better.
So, just when we thought Chef Saleh had blown us away with his arsenal of clever culinary creations, he pulls out another unforgettable masterstroke. The Shish Barak parcels up slow-cooked duck into pockets of pure joy. The delicate, yet unmistakably, rich duck flavours are cloistered in tender dumplings that lap up the porcini veloute. Each envelope explodes in the mouth with a combination of sophistication and comfort at once. Bravo Chef!
From one showstopper to another at Coya! The Umm Ali, or Arabic bread pudding, is equal parts pretty and panache. Like a king on it’s thrown, a dollop of rich ice cream supports a regal headpiece of pistachio anglaise, all atop a base of vibrantly sweet fruits. Too gorgeous to eat, we topple this king from his perch and are rewarded with decadent delights for our unceremonious overthrow.
But wait, there’s more! No, really! The hits just keep on coming…one last hurrah in the form of the Passionfruit Souffle Mousse. It’s a fluffy cloud of passionfruit bliss with every spoonful. This dessert’s playfulness starts with its florescent colour, and continues with the impossible lightness of its texture. The flavour is turned up to ten, and reminds me of my childhood treats when passionfruit was the go-to tropical temptation. I love everything about this bowl of joy as it closes out a meal that reminds me that there are real hidden treasures in the Sydney foodscape still to be discovered.
Coya is a triumph of culinary craftsmanship that warrants respect and admiration for Chef Saleh’s kitchen with every mouthful. This is an experience in careful refinement and deft execution backed by decades of honed talent. What’s so impressive about the entire Coya concept is that it provides the opportunity to experience truly world class creations in an atmosphere that is accessible to all. You must go, and go now!
*Coco & Vine dined as guests of Coya and AGFG. However, all images and opinions are our own.