Shunichi Tanabe, owner of Cocotte in Robina, has taken an interesting culinary journey on his way to the Gold Coast. A chef for ten years in Japan, Shunichi emigrated to Australia a decade ago, recently working beside Steven Snow at Fins, Salt Village, for four years before opening his own restaurant late in 2011.
Cocotte, taken from the name of the small fireproof cooking dish, indicates the French influence in Shunichi’s food. But his cuisine’s not as easily defined as ‘Japanese-French fusion’ – it’s more eclectic. There is lots of evidence of his Japanese heritage, together with the excitement of flavours achieved through experimenting with clever combinations of Mediterranean and Eastern ingredients. Hints of Italian, Spanish, modern Australian as well as Japanese cuisine show through at Cocotte; a uniqueness and depth of flavour that’s a fabulous bonus to the Gold Coast dining scene.
“I wanted to do something different with food,” Shunichi says, “combining what I knew about Japanese cuisine with the new cuisines I’d learned in Australia, to show how they could come together,” which they do with great success!
Shunichi uses the highest quality produce: seasonally fresh local and free range ingredients together with hyper-local herbs and flavourings from the restaurant garden. The produce is treated with the utmost respect, classic saucing methods with Eastern dimensions piquing interest, and enhancing rather than dominating natural flavours. Seared scallops are served with soba kernels and edamame salad and a dash of preserved lemon dressing; Gratin of Japanese mushrooms and roasted vegetables are topped with white miso; passionate, inspired, spontaneous and memorable!
The restaurant’s menu is divided into four main sections: Tapas, In the Casserole, Grill/Pan and Dessert. There are many vegetarian and gluten-free options available, all clearly marked on the menu. The restaurant’s signature menu items, served in rustic French cocottes, are slow-cooked dishes, again an inspired crossroad of cuisines. Shunichi’s favourite, he told us, is the 5 hour braised ox tail and beef cheek in red wine and black miso. Overcome by so many exotic-sounding options, we sampled from three sections, ordering a large number of tapas, two mains, as well as desserts. All were exquisite, but as great food takes time to prepare, we could have chosen more wisely on a busy Friday night. Next time, we’ve decided, we will choose tapas brought as entrée, followed by main and casserole to share. Plus desserts, of course – they’re way too good to miss!
Like a former French-inspired Japanese chef, Masahiko Yogo (owner of Mature Yogo), Shunichi has daringly set up his restaurant in an unlikely spot: a small shopping centre off Robina Parkway. ‘Build it and they will come.’
It’s the area behind the restaurant that’s the real bonus. Now transformed into a pleasant Japanese garden, it’s an inviting split-level space with a casual Gold Coast alfresco feel. The service too is inviting, with Shunichi and his wife welcoming you to their table to share and savour their inspirational food. Discerning diners have found Cocotte – it’s a real pearl (with a hint of sherry vinaigrette and edamame salad)!
Update July 2015: In 2015, Cocotte launched izakaya nights on Sunday and Monday nights, with plates priced at $7 – $16 per plate. With Cocotte consistently rated at one chef hat or just below, izikaya is an inexpensive way to try Shunichi’s fabulous food. Licensed venue; no BYO, but wine is very reasonably priced.
Robina Quays Shopping Centre, 361 Robina Parkway, Robina
Ph: 07 5689 1366
Open: Tues – Sat from 5:30pm; Thurs – Sat 12 noon – 3pm.