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Koda review from Metromix

Carey | May 18, 200608:31 AM

10352 S. Western Ave.
C'est what!
Yep, a new bistro brings a little ooh-la-la to Beverly
By Chris LaMorte

May 17 2006

So, I called my dad, hoping to once again lasso him into checking out a new restaurant with me. This time it was Koda 10352 S. Western Ave 773-445-5632,a just-opened--get this!--bistro right on Western Avenue in Beverly, not far from some of his haunts.

"What day?" he asked.

Well, I planned on Monday, but after a hectic Mother's Day weekend (what a time to open a new restaurant, right?), owners Patrick and Janice Daley have decided to slow things down a notch. Until it gets its sea legs, Koda will be closed Mondays. So how does Tuesday sound?

"Tuesday? Forget it," he said. "Me and a bunch of the guys are going to Ken's."

Wait. Do you mean Ken's Restaurant? It's about two blocks south of Koda, and with its well-used vinyl dining room chairs and TVs playing the game in the front bar, it certainly reflects the working-class character of this 'hood. But surely, Dad, you could go to Ken's some other night. I'm inviting you to Beverly's hottest restaurant, after all.

"Well, they're bringing in the catfish special," he countered. End of discussion. In the battle of tuna tartare versus deep-fried catfish, you can guess who won out. On the South Side, old eating habits die hard.

But sorry, Dad (and Ken's), change is indeed coming to Beverly. Slowly, but it's coming. A few yuppies have moved in. A few gleaming, rehabbed houses are sprouting up. And now Koda opens, which we say is a tasteful addition to the engine of progress. It brings contemporary-style cuisine to the neighborhood without any hint of snobbery or pretension. Judging by the packed dining room on Tuesday, there are plenty of locals ready to give this place a try.

With slate tile floors, burgundy bistro window treatments and faux-finished gold walls, Koda's dining room has a crisp, just-moved-in feeling. It's not so super-fancy you'll feel like a schmuck for walking in in jeans, but you won't mistake it for any of the tried-and-true Irish pubs, pizza joints or fast-food outfits on the block. It runs the risk, however, of seeming a little cold. Our suggestion: Switch on the stereo and flood the dining room with a little uptempo French funk.

Of course, the mostly older crowd we saw might not go for Serge Gainsbourg. We spotted a few couples in their 20s in the dining room, but this ain't Japonais, folks. If you're coming here for a discreet rendezvous, ask to be seated in the darker lounge area and canoodle by the pastel LED glow of the bar.

The menu's not a by-the-book effete French affair, either, which we think is good. In fact, Koda uses the tagline "unique bistro." Chef Aaron Browning's done stints in high-end kitchens like Everest, as well as more approachable spots like Brassiere Jo. He offers a lot to choose from here, including a trio of tarte flambees, which is just a fancy name for thin-crust pizza. Go for the brie, pear and walnut ($9.25). The star of the fish menu is the skatewing ($18.75), served in a caper-brown butter sauce. We also like the customer- and wallet-friendly wine list, organized by style ("light and crisp whites"; "heavy, full-bodied reds") with just enough by-the-glass options.

Browning takes plenty of contemporary liberties with dishes like the tender, juicy braised sweet-and-spicy short ribs ($22). Served bone-in with wasabi mashed potatoes and fresh summer veggies, we loved the spirit of the dish. Still, we couldn't help but wonder if the chef was holding back on us just a bit with that spice.

Yes, service is still a work in progress; OK, it was just plain slow. But Janice Daley knows it and told us she's working to hire more staff. So we'll wait a few weeks before returning. Maybe by then, I'll be able to convince my dad to give this spot a go.

Chris LaMorte is the metromix dining producer. Originally published May 18, 2006.

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