I’m an ardent proponent of tapas – they cater to my inner greed of wanting to try everything on the menu at each and every meal. On checking the tapas scene in KL, I came across glowing reviews of Ohla Tapas & Cocktails located at The Intermark, along the busy Tun Razak thoroughfare. The restaurant, touted as a Gastrobar, was opened by Chef Toni Valero Ruiz to much fanfare.
My interest in Ohla heightened when El Celler de Can Roca of Girona and Mugaritz of San Sebastian were ranked No. 1 and No. 6 on San Pelligrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 respectively, as Chef Toni had done stints at both of these impossible-to-get-into restaurants in Spain.
Ohla was fully booked when I tried to get a reservation a few weeks ago, so was surprised this evening to find the place rather quiet when my wife and I arrived; we were the first customers. On enquiring the waitstaff, I was disconcerted to learn that Chef Toni had left the establishment recently, but was quickly assured that the kitchen is in the capable hands of Chef Than, his assistant who has been with him since opening. I remained sceptical.
Ohla is minimalistically decorated in hues of crimson red and black with the liberal use of wood, and dimly lit to lend it that edgy feel. There’s seating offered by brightly-coloured bar stools lined alongside the counter of the open kitchen for those who are keen to watch the chefs at work.
The concise menu is filled with an eclectic mix of traditional items infused with a modern twist, and enticingly worded to warrant some tough deliberation as we nibbled on the complimentary Spanish olives and peppers marinated in olive oil aromatised with cinnamon, star anise, lemon, orange and black pepper. The Rioja house pour we ordered was pretty decent.
We settled on the Razor Clams that were airflow in and frozen. The clams came out firm and sweet with a nice bit of chew, and tasty with the fragrant garlicky oil.
Next came two decent-sized slabs of Pan-Seared Foie Gras, on a bed of truffled potato puree accompanied by a 62º sous vide-cooked egg topped with 2 slices of black truffles. This dish is exquisite, with all the fabulous ingredients creating an explosion of flavours in your mouth – we had to ask for the house-baked sourdough (which was very good) to mop up the remnants of the dish. I love slow-cooked eggs and even bought a Miele combo steam oven to make them at home; an expensive indulgence I must say, and a fact that my dear wife never fail to remind me on the rare occasions that I make them.
The next dish presents an innovative take on the paella: Mediterranean seafood black rice cooked in squid ink. We had a choice of toppings: grilled langoustines or squid. We opted for the latter, which turned out charred and yet succulent, and delicious with the flavourful al dente rice braised in lobster bisque, and served with roasted allioli on the side. A very well-executed concoction.
The Charcoal-grilled Basque Country Dry-aged Beef served with mustard and herb butter and roasted baby potatoes is one of the best beef dish we had in recent memory.
I adore meats cooked in a Spanish Josper (pronounced Hosper) Oven – a hybrid charcoal grill and oven that is capable of reaching temperatures over 400 degrees Celsius. The oven lid keeps the heat, flavour and the charcoal smoke within to impart that smokiness into the meat, with the high heat charring the meat on the outside but leaving it tender within.
The beef, done to a perfect medium-rare as requested, was full-bodied, juicy and ambrosial with the mustard and herb butter. You can see the lovely pink of the meat with the goodness gently oozing out.
The beef was so good that Katherine wanted to order seconds but I suggested to try the Spanish Suckling Milk-fed Lamb Shoulder, which was served with a rosemary-infused milk and cardamom sauce. The lamb was melt-in-you-mouth tender and gamey, akin to the Cantonese roast suckling pig.
We ended dinner with the Caramelised Banana with brandy, served with a yummy house-made banana ice cream and popping white chocolate candy. A tantalising dessert indeed; the brandy-soaked banana juxtaposed perfectly with the ice-cream and the crunchy candy bits.
Service was excellent. The wait staff, Mercy and Dos, both from the Philippines, were efficient, friendly and knowledgeable about the food – a rare breed in today’s tight labour market in the F&B industry.
Our overall dining experience at Ohla Tapas & Cocktails was superb; the food is beautifully presented, edgy and yet retaining the essence of tradition. The tapas are large enough for 2 persons, allowing you to order more dishes to share. Prices are more than reasonable for food of this standard and quality. It is clear that Chef Toni had done a great job of imparting his skills and talent to Chef Than, who hails from Myanmar. My fears of his capability were unfounded, so do check out Ohla while Chef Than is still there.
Ohla Tapas & Cocktails (Restaurant had ceased operating)
Ground Floor, The Intermarry, 348, Jalan Tun Razak,
50400 Kuala Lumpur
Phone: +60 12663 2651