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71 Rokeby Road, Subiaco
(08) 6336 0777

Rokeby Road rocks with flavours of East Asia

KOBA is located within Subiaco’s heaving Rokeby Road dining precinct. The restaurant and bar present a contemporary vibe with polished concrete floors and subdued downlighting, which are stylishly balanced with soft retro floral fabrics and light shades to counter the modern hard surfaces.

As the Restaurant approaches its first anniversary, owner Paul Truong reflects on how their initial vision has morphed over time driven by customer demand.

The initial intent for KOBA was a bar featuring a wide range of beverages with accompanying Asian dishes. However, the dishes the head chef Man Kong created had such a powerful impact that it became the highlight of KOBA, as described by many customers.

Paul is of Vietnamese heritage, while his wife Sunmi Lee was born in South Korea. When you add into the mix a Head Chef Man Kong from Hong Kong and a Sous Chef Le Quan Loh from Malaysia exciting things begin to happen. We were presented with six dishes to highlight KOBA’s new identity.

The first dish served was Charred Octopus with an olek cucumber salsa. The octopus was tender with toasty charring, while the cucumber salsa provided freshness to cleanse the palate. The olek sauce made from sweetened reduced fish sauce infused with chilli, was a revelation with great depth and provided a perfect accompaniment to the octopus. The dish was served with a 2021 Soumah Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley in Victoria. The wine has overtones of red berry, is well rounded with light tannins offering a whole-of-mouth feel, which complemented the dish.

Our next offering was the Prawn and Pork Xiu Mai. The Cantonese traditional dish featured house-made steamed, open-topped dumplings. The soft, ultra-thin pastry is filled with prawn and pork, finely chopped to retain texture and chewiness. The dumplings were attractively topped with delicate, salty fish roe and served with a dipping sauce.

Next up, we tried the KOBA Matcha Soba Noodles served with Beef. This Japanese influenced dish comprised a twirl of matcha noodles topped with thin slices of marinated beef. Pea shoots and edible flowers adorn the dish making it visually attractive, a feast for the eyes. The green tea infused soba noodles made from buckwheat were nutty, mildly sweet, soft and creamy. The beef provided texture and added a salty, savoury element to balance the flavours in the dish.

Flaming Jumbo Prawns introduced an element of drama to the meal, as Head Bartender Jack Lee gleefully doused the arranged fresh, local WA Jumbo prawns in green fairy absinthe and set it alight. He explained that, “the 60% alcohol content burnt better, and the fairy makes the magic happen”. The prawns are served in the shell and can be eaten this way or peeled as per the diner’s choice. The absinthe flambe provided a sweet, smoky, savoury flavour which was much better than any ‘shrimp thrown on the barbie’. Accompanied by a tintiri and chilli sauce, sour notes from the tamarind and heat from the chillies provided further flavour dimensions to the dish.

Bo Luc Lac or Shaking Beef, a traditional Vietnamese dish showcases the cuisine of Paul Truong’s heritage, and it was what we were presented with next. The dish takes its name from the method of vigorous shaking of the hot wok to ensure the beef doesn’t stick. The marinated beef was tender, moist and smoky, and was served on a bed of stir-fried vegetables and fresh leafy salad.

Our final dish was Crispy Salmon, a true cultural crossover that may be found in any Italian restaurant. Crispy skinned salmon, served in a lemon butter and caper sauce with sides of twice-cooked potato and broccolini. The salmon was light and buttery, the skin crispy and salty served in an unctuous creamy sauce skilfully countered by the slightly tart lemon and salty capers.

The food menu at KOBA is quite extensive, featuring all day dim sum, shared plates, other signature and traditional mains, traditional rice and noodles, and dessert from the vast range of Eastern Asian cuisines with a scattering of western dishes.

True to its original manifestation, KOBA’s drinks menu features a good selection of tap and bottled beers, an extensive variety of spirits, as well as a respectable range of varietal wine with most able to be purchased by the glass, as well as by the bottle. Glancing around the restaurant and bar, we sighted several locals partaking of a cleansing pint or a glass of wine.

The restaurant also takes pride in its offering of signature and classic cocktails, some of which were playfully served with our meals. While wine, beer and aperitifs are more traditional accompaniments to meals, cocktails can play their part and take you on a different journey. We sampled a Japanese Margarita which complemented the pork and prawn dumplings. Also, from the signature cocktail list, we tried the vibrantly orange fire coloured Mother of Dragons which featured fireball cinnamon infused whiskey, mango liqueur and fresh puree lime and grapefruit. Next, we were offered Mountain Fire with Gin, watermelon, Aperol and a chilli-salt rim.

Unsurprisingly, given the diverse backgrounds of the team at KOBA, they seek to provide diners with a choice of the best dishes that East Asia has to offer, particularly focusing on traditional comfort food, but also finding synergy between their cultures to create new and exciting taste sensations.

By Chris O’Halloran


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