Love at first bite at Cocodine
Cocodine is one of many exceptional Asian restaurants in Chico
Cocodine Thai Cuisine2485 Notre Dame Blvd.
Chico, CA 95928
Growing up in the Midwest, Henri had never eaten Thai until a mid-’80s fling with a darling little Thai Airways flight attendant based in Bangkok and flying out of Suvarnabhumi Airport. While, sadly, the relationship lasted a mere 17 days—we had a dreadful falling out one night during a layover in Singapore—I developed a love of Thai food that has continued to this day.
So I was thrilled upon my arrival in Chico seven years ago to find several first-rate Thai restaurants and to have watched more open since, including Cocodine (“coco,” from coconut milk, and “dine”), which rightfully earns rave reviews from North State customers and regularly places in the top three in the Chico News & Review’s annual Best of Chico awards—in both the Asian and International Cuisine categories.
Though it’s easy to lump all Thai dishes into a one typical cuisine, in fact Thai food is distinctly regionalized. The classic rice-noodles-and-eggs pad Thai is from central Thailand, where eggs are common in cooking, while curry dishes are typically from southern Thailand. Dishes from northern Thailand often include more exotic sauces and ingredients, such as fermented shrimp paste, raw beef and deep-fried insect larvae and, in the northeast, “giant water bugs.”
Cocodine’s menu features a wide array of dishes from throughout Thailand (Henri has encountered neither insect larvae nor grown-ups), including rice, noodle, chicken, beef, pork, duck, seafood and vegetarian sides and entrees, as well a dozen different salads (such as papaya, eggplant and grilled shrimp).
Most dishes run $7-$9, although some of the seafood plates, including the gra-pow (shrimp, calamari, scallops and salmon in a spicy sauce with onions, bell peppers, garlic and sweet basil) run $12-$13. Lunch specials are offered weekdays and include curry dishes, cashew chicken and pad prik-king (beef, chicken or pork stir-fried with green beans, curry and Kaffir-lime leaves) for $7-$8.50, with soup or salad.
Most dishes can be prepared mild, medium, spicy, or “Thai spicy,” the spiciness level here seemingly just a notch above most other local Thai restaurants.
Although tucked into an unlikely and generic strip-mall corner, Cocodine offers an authentic Thai dining experience—Thai music playing softly in the background, the wait staff in costume—that seems, fortunately, light years away from Jo-Ann Fabrics and Ross Dress for Less next door.
For Henri, Cocodine was love at first bite, a large spoonful of red curry, with coconut milk, sweet basil, bamboo shoots, eggplant and tender pieces of chicken. I ordered it spicy, and it was perfect, effecting a slight perspiration at my temples and below my eyes—among the best curry I’ve ever had anywhere. I also recommend the Fisherman’s Hot Plate, a sizzling seafood combination with cauliflower, red and green bell peppers, celery, mushrooms, basil, fennel, and baby corn in a white-wine sauce.
Colette is quite enamored of Cocodine herself, swearing by the spicy chicken (finely diced chicken stirred into onions, basil and a chile-garlic sauce) and the tofu salad (with carrots, lemongrass, cucumber and diced peanuts).
Cocodine has a short but decent wine list that features Durham’s Gale Vineyards’ primitivo (Italian-style rose) and their mélange (red blend) for $22 ($6/glass). Also available: Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay ($22/$6) and Louis Martini Cabernet ($19/$5.50).
One small complaint: perplexing seating. At lunch recently, only one other table in the rather spacious room was occupied—until another party was seated directly beside us (the tables are quite close together), their conversation making ours difficult. Another time, at dinner, five or six parties were standing in the tiny lobby waiting to be seated while at least four tables sat set and unoccupied and four or so more seemed reserved for holding dish trays and water pitchers.