*please note that a return visit to Moda a few months later proved to be a dreadful disappointment. See Zomato for the updated review.*
Given that I rarely go into the city, perhaps it isn’t that surprising that I didn’t really know about Moda. If there’s a deal though, I pay attention.
It is off the busier drags of the pedestrian mall of the CBD and the dining strip of Eagle Street Pier, located near the river but just out of sight of it. What that means, being away from a more trafficked area though, is that it is a semi-secluded dining area. Being there is like being in a garden, as it is a covered area, but open on three sides, and there are hedges and pots of plants around you. A couple of lines in the menu say that on Friday afternoons, a chef and paella pan take up residence in that urban garden. Unfortunately, paella doesn’t seem to be available on other days or at other times. It is a beautiful setting, particularly in the evening, with the chandelier alight. Just that bit dressed up without being stuffy.
You have the option of ordering entrees, mains, and desserts a la carte, or doing Javier’s table experience, in which you have dishes making up the three courses selected by the chef for the entire table. Knowing that in some places that can be a bit hit and miss, and seeing that there were particular dishes on the menu that appealed to us and that we definitely wanted to have, we opted to order a la carte.
The entrees are $22 a dish, or you can get share plates with a choice of three or five of the entrees (for two and four people, respectively). Doing the math and trying to whittle down our choices, getting a share plate of three entrees was only marginally more than getting two entrees, and also meant we could try one more item. Five entrees, tempting as it was, would not have left room for the mains. It could be an alternative to getting main dishes for those who want more variety though. We had fried pork belly with Southern Ocean calamari, Hervey Bay scallops with cauliflower escabeche and Jamon, and duck liver parfait with Pedro Ximenez jelly.
The pork belly and calamari were tasty. The scallops were perfectly cooked and flavoured well with the Jamon. The winning dish though, was the duck liver parfait with PX jelly. I had not had pate as a dish on its own for years, and had just about forgotten what the appeal of it is. This was served just slightly cooler than room temperature, and had a buttery soft texture. It had a distinctly gamey umami flavour, without being overpowering. Pedro Ximenez is a black sherry with sweet, complex fruit flavours. Having this in jelly form was a brilliant idea. It provided a nice counterpoint to the pate, and kept you from being saturated with the richness of the pate.
When it came to mains, despite the appealing dishes on the menu like the sovereign lamb and the confit duck leg, we could not go past the specials of the roast suckling pig with roast potato gnocchi and the scorpion fish bouillabasse.
Scorpion fish is indeed not a common one to find on your plate, and we did a Google search to find out more. It turns out that they are, as named, spiny and venomous, and that hassle is probably why they are not more popular. They are also termed the “poor man’s lobster” though, which might justify the effort. Cooked up in the bouillabasse, it had firm flesh and a clean flavour on its own. The herby seafoody soup added more.
The roast suckling pig was, I think, the dish of the night. The suckling pig had crispy skin and tender flesh. The gnocchi were what Italian restaurants aspire to but few seem to reach, light and creamy in the inside, with a bit of crunch on the outer skin from being pan-fried. All that, in a sauce that was meaty and gingery and rich.
There was still room for dessert though. We had one of each. The creme caramel with mini meringues and lemon sauce, churros with Valrhona chocolate sauce, rice pudding with sangria poached pears, and the Moda crema catalana with blueberries and honeycomb.
We were expecting the French-Japanese style of creme caramel, a soft custard. It turned out quite different, firmer, almost like an agar jelly. The lemon sauce and the berries made it a tart overall, as the creme caramel in itself wasn’t really that sweet.
The churros were lighter and fluffier than market stall or San Churros churros. With the vanilla bean ice cream and the chocolate dipping sauce, it was the desssert that came closest to our preconceptions.
The rice pudding was milkier than I expected, and there were no discernible pear chunks. After trawling through the bowl, I think we worked out that the small cubes that weren’t rice were probably pieces of pear.
The Moda crema catalana was interesting. Instead of being a firm creme brulee-like pudding, it seemed to be whipped and aerated, like a dense foam. It did indeed have honeycomb and blueberries, but the best part of it was more Pedro Ximenez jelly hidden at the bottom. (I think it could go with just about anything.)
In reviewing this place, I have to also say that the service was excellent. The person looking after our table was friendly, warm, and knowledgable, and happy to explain the dishes to us.
Price point: $22 per entree, or $46 for three and $78 for five (not sure if the serving sizes for a share platter are smaller). Mains $29 to $58 (upper end for the suckling pig special). Desserts $15 to $18.
Value: Good. It’s not a cheap place to dine, but the entrees and the mains are of a high standard and well worth the price. Desserts I’m less convinced about..
Address: 12 Edward St, Brisbane QLD 4000
Phone: (07) 3221 7655