Cocolinis by the Sea

Liz Ah-Hi discovers casual dining, and an open air setting that belies the world class customer service and food that is served at this establishment, tucked away on the most northern point of Upolu.

September 12, 2019
Rebecca Murphy

Rebecca Murphy

September 12, 2019

Looking out into the open ocean to see a brilliant sun setting behind Samoa’s third largest island of Manono while nursing a cold Taula is where I begin my taste journey at Cocolinis by the Sea at Le Vasa Resort in Apolima-uta.

The casual dining and open air setting belies the world class customer service and food that is served at this establishment, tucked away on the most northern point of Upolu where the fishing district is located.

The Staff at Cocolinis were absolutely wonderful, so attentive and warm which is the Pacific way I have come to learn. I was greeted by chef Apisalome Lesumaimaleya from Fiji who brings with him a wealth of Pacific fine dining experience from across four different Pacific Islands at 4.5-star resorts. The ambience of the restaurant here reflects the rich vibrancy and energy of the resort and the menu is inspired by its natural surroundings of abundant coconut tree forest and a vast ocean.

For starters I had the South Pacific Fresh prawn served on a bed of tropical fruit salad drizzled in homemade papaya sauce with a side of deep fried basil leaves and shavings of sweet potato. The base of the fruit salad was made from coconut meat mixed with papaya and avocado with lime and chilli to flavour. Combine the fragrant tropical fruit with the crispness of deep fried basil leaves and sweet potato and you have a recipe for a delicious collision of exotic flavours. The prawns are just the cherry on the top, cooked to juicy plump perfection in garlic and coconut cream. 

Just when I thought that starter couldn’t be topped I was presented with another dish that looked too pretty to eat. Unfortunately it had an underwhelming name like ‘assorted seafood of delight with local vegetables’ therein lies a lesson – never judge a dish by its name. 

The masimasi and squid on cassava hash and wild spinach was a thing of beauty. If you’re going to open a restaurant in a district aptly named Aiga I le Tai which translates to ‘family by the sea’ the expectations for high quality seafood are going to be high.

Open air dining at Le Vasa Resort

The fresh masimasi and squid sourced locally was cooked to perfection drizzled with a garlicky coconut sauce. However my favourite part of this dish was the base of indulgent smooth tapioca hash covered in baked coconut crumbs, it was sinfully good.

Just when I thought they had played all their best cards, chef Manu Quilevu (Cocolini’s second chef) also from Fiji, presented me with perhaps what is considered Cocolini’s crowning glory. I say this because it was the size of a small mountain and an artfully presented dish. If you’re looking for a meal to share then the coconut crumb tuna with vegetable timbale with avocado salsa is highly recommended because I had to recruit the help of another to get through this colossal seafood main course.

The seafood mountain consisted of a massive tuna steak, evenly cooked all the way through and covered in baked coconut shavings towering over a beautiful stir fry of local tomatoes, eggplant and wild spinach. On the side were imported green lipped mussels in gorgeous coconut and basil cream – a symphony of flavours covering the whole palette!

I don’t know how I managed to save room for dessert but I couldn’t leave without sampling the very thing that put Cocolinis by the Sea on my radar. According to the local grapevine, the desserts are world famous at this joint. In continuing on with the all things coconut theme, I decided to finish up strong with the coconut flan for dessert. If ‘oh my God’ was a flavour, it would rightly describe this manna from heaven. Chef Manu took a traditional dish like ‘pagi popo’ (coconut buns) and reinvented it into sophisticated flan while maintaining the smoky flavours of the well-loved dessert. 

The coconut custard may be rich but it is not overly sweet even with the papaya sauce and coconut sauce drizzled over it but the sprig of mint freshens the dessert right up which is a delightful touch. The best thing about the coconut flan is that you can have your cake and eat it too because it’s dairy and gluten free!

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