About a year ago the restaurant "Kock & Vin" (a Swedish word-play on 'coq au vin') was transformed into "Koka". We had the pleasure of dining at Kock & Vin before, and then everything felt "dated"— so a change was needed!
All the interiors were ripped down and replaced (apart from the old-style ceiling) to give a new and fresh look-and-feel; a new start and with new-found ambitions.
We were excited by a restaurant that felt like it needed to "change with the times", so it was with great anticipation we entered Koka to see just how ambitious the makeover was.
The owner of Koka, Björn Persson has a small empire of restaurants in Gothenburg (Spisa, Familjen) and we started the evening at Björns Bar which is a cozy bar located in the basement of Koka to enjoy some small dishes. Happy with this, we walked upstairs and were seated at our table. The restaurant was filled with diners, and the noise-level was quite high. For a restaurant that previously were "fine-dining", the feeling we get now is more of a local "get-together" social spot.
The interior went from antique french home with white table-cloths, to a mix of alpine-ski-lodge and a theatre (by the use of striking red coloured fabric in the ceiling). The wood-panels cover the floors and the walls, creating both a modern and minimalistic vibe together with the brown chairs and the leather coverings on the tables.
The tables are very clever, as they can be placed together to form longer tables for larger groups, and pulled apart to serve two diners (which obviously is the most common). It's rather frustrating not being able to get a reservation at a restaurant because there's only tables for "large groups" left. We can just imagine how many of those never gets sold at other restaurants; a smart move by Koka!
In typical modern-style restaurant-fashion, the cutlery is placed on the table, and its up to the diner to pick suiting cutlery for each dish. It's obvious that Koka wants to be a more "casual" and "approachable" restaurant than the fine-dining one it was before.
To our delight, almost half of the wines on offer are natural wines— and we scout to find the most interesting they have. We're recommended a 2009 Arien de Sol a Sol from Esencia Rural in Spain. A little "funky" and "sweet" wine that fits well with the style of dishes.
The servers are dressed in jeans and jeans-shirts— once again very approachable. Our server seems like a person we would like to have a drink with to talk food— but he's very busy, and feels a bit stressed, so we don't get as much time to talk as we would've liked, which is too bad.
We start off with an appetiser of shrimps, elderberry-mayonnaise, pickled elderberries, carrots and roasted shrimp-shells. Koka wants to serve "modern gastronomy from the west coast", and they start off on a great little note.
The first course is a dish with skrei (cod), oyster and celery. Quite subtle tastes where the fish delivers the mouthfeel, but is almost "hidden" in the dish.
We've so far never come across a squid-dish that we've loved, so we're a bit hesitant when we get the next dish of squid, cabbage and almonds. This time the squid is cooked to perfection, but it still doesn't provide a pleasing taste. The almond-powder also makes the dish a bit "dry".
The highlights on the next two plates are the fried cauliflower and the roasted potatoes for added texture. The oyster-mushroom, sour cream and potato dish is a vegetarian delight and proves that there's no need to base each dish on a protein.
The lamb-dish gives a hint of "main-course" during the night— and even though we've had a few dishes at this point, we feel very "light" and ready for more. The lamb is cut in thin slices and topped with a caraway cheese that's rather strong in flavour and overpowers a bit.
The first desert is "frozen" goat yoghurt, black current and marjoram. The kitchen has frozen the goat yoghurt by dripping it in liquid nitrogen (forming small spheres) which was a "hot" technique quite a while ago. We believe it's intended to bring a bit of "wow"-factor, but the frozen balls are a bit too cold, and almost numbs the palette a bit too much.
The last desert is the highlight plate of the night. As we're not that keen on desert-dishes, this tells us a little something about the previous dishes. This one delivers great though. with a caramel ice cream, buckwheat crisps and a "hidden" egg-yolk inside the dish. Creamy and very pleasing, a great way to end the menu.
As we sum up the night— we think the transformation to Koka was a step in the right direction. The concept feels a lot more concise, it's more approachable and casual— which are traits we like (even though it feels very much like a "rip-off" from Relae). The restaurant has kept the quality (so it's no surprise they've gained back their lost michelin-star), but in terms of the food, we must say that it's not very memorable. We never went "wow" and everything felt "safe". Koka will probably benefit a lot from the change into new clothes, as many new diners can enter without feeling intimidated by the white table-cloths— we just find it sad that Koka isn't trying to push the food even further though. Maybe add a food-counter where food-nerds like us can get some more time to talk food and try some more bold dishes?