Review: Coya, St Leonards’s Middle Eastern Degustation Experience

Eat, Restaurants, Sydney / 24 October 2022

Take yourself on a food adventure through the flavours of the Middle East & Australia’s best produce with Coya’s plentiful degustation menus.

Catering to the ‘adventurous foodie’, Coya provides degustation delights with a Middle Eastern twist. Having relocated from Cromer (Sydney’s Northern Beaches) to St Leonard’s, the award-winning restaurant was a favourite frequented by politicians and celebrity chefs and is set to be just as popular in its new location.

You know you’re in for a special food experience when a 10-course degustation starts with canapés in addition to the dishes. Our canapés were incredible and I especially loved the avocado tomato bite with horseradish cream. Future diners may or may not taste this canapé as dishes change daily and are served as an amuse-bouche, bite-sized eats designed to whet your appetite.

French-trained chef Ashraf Saleh uses French cooking techniques on Australian produce to create unique Middle Eastern dishes. Saleh considers himself an artist and a gastronomic chef. The two-time cookbook author hails from far North China and has lived and worked across the world. Starting his culinary career at the Sheraton Hotel in Saudi Arabia, he then went on to work in five-star restaurants throughout Europe before coming to Australia. He was Head Chef at some of Sydney’s top and most award-winning restaurants, including Criterion, CMC and Cadmus, as well as the Point Blue Restaurant at McMahon’s Point before opening Coya with his wife and business partner Kit.

If you’re looking for a food adventure, Coya is a must-experience. There isn’t a lot of information on the menus and this is intentional as Saleh likes to find out if there are any dietary restrictions before planning his menu. Everything is cooked fresh, using only the best market produce of the day. 

Each dish is a beautiful, colourful work of art. When food is so beautifully presented, you’d be forgiven for thinking the effort focuses on the presentation and the taste will be average. You’d be wrong however for thinking this at Coya. Saleh certainly takes the time to artfully present each dish, but he also ensures each bite will be a joy to the taste buds. A feast for the senses, each dish is made giving careful consideration to the flavour, look and texture. 

With an ever-changing menu, sadly you may not experience the delicious potato volute with Tete de Moine, black caviar and mustard oil or the sweet Harvey Bay shaved scallops with pickled apple, lime fluid gel and coconut emulsion. It is likely however that you will be served the ever-popular Barberry King Prawns with chilli jam, sumac and raspberry emulsion. 70,000 patrons have been served this sweet dish since 2016 and it has become a staple at Coya.

Wine bottles from the extensive wine list decorate one side of the wall and wife Kit plans to decorate the remaining walls by showcasing food images from Saleh’s two cookbooks. 

Guaranteed you won’t leave hungry, portions are more than adequate which isn’t always the case with degustations. Coya is an experience not to be rushed and the 10-course degustation will seat you for 3 hours ($150). Alternatively, opt for the 6-course degustation ($100) or the 3-course lunch menu ($70). There’s also a vegetarian menu and as long as you provide advance notice, Coya will cater to food restrictions. 

Chef Ashraf is passionate about what he does and the love and care he injects into each dish are evident in the taste and presentation. Coya is a delightful experience with a friendly and inviting atmosphere that we’d highly recommend.

Bookings are essential. Open Thursday to Saturday, 12:00pm – 2:30pm for lunch and Wednesday – Saturday, 5:30pm – 9:00pm for dinner. Book your table here.

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