I love Spanish food and my search for tapas in Kuala Lumpur late last year led me to discover Chef Toni Valero and Ohla Tapas & Cocktails at Intermark Mall, attracted by the rave reviews. By the time I dined there, Chef Valero had already left the establishment but I was suitably impressed by the legacy that he left behind; his able assistant chef turning out a fine gastronomic tapas expereince. Unfortunately Ohla had since closed; but despair not, as Chef Valero has resurfaced at newly opened Coquo Restaurant & Wine Bar.
Coquo Restaurant & Wine Bar is located above Barfly at the Publika Mall, an upscale neighbourhood shopping mall in Solaris Dutamas famed for its bustling night life, nestled in the sprawling up-and-coming Sri Hartamasa residential development.
The decor of Coquo (which means “I cook” in Latin) is intimate – with a warm rustic chic theme liven up by whimsical wall murals – and centred around an open kitchen that’s intentionally set on a lower plane to enable dinners to watch the chefs in action.
Chef Toni Valero comes with an impressive resume, having cut his chops at various Michelin-starred Spanish establishments like El Cellar de Can Roca and Mugaritz, that are ranked among the top restaurants in the world. Coquo’s cuisine is touted as “Modern” but the heavy Spanish influence is very transparent, and welcomed. Local produces play a part in the menu, in the form of seafood from Pulau Ketam and the likes of curry leaves.
Very knowledgeable sommelier Gustavo Arriaga recommended us a bottle of Crozes Hermitage Rouge 2013 – Rhône Paradox – a very affordable yet elegant wine.
The Smoked Cecina, from Txogitxu, topped with grated D.O. Manchego cheese and extra virgin olive oil got us off to a good start – the cured meat is very flavoursome. Our anticipation is heightened.
Unfortunately the Hokkaido Scallop Ceviche didn’t excite as much; the lightly seared scallops accompanied by calamansi, light coconut air and black olive crumble were fresh but supposedly coming from Hokkaido, I had expected them to be much sweeter.
The next dish of Confit Mushrooms topped with milk skin and a mushroom broth ensconcing a soft-poached egg restored our anticipation, creating a joyous juxtaposition of textures and flavours strung together by the lava egg.
I’m a fan of anything grilled in a Josper oven, and the Mediterranean Octopus didn’t disappoint – the grilled octopus arm came out smoky and tender, perfect with the cachelo potato, saffron foam and a dusting of Pimentón de la Vera.
We wanted to try a fish dish and was vacillating between the Snapper and the Cod. The Snapper won with its titillating description: chrysanthemum, lemongrass mash, honey and salted fish skin stock, but the sous-vide snapper turned out much tamer in real life. I would have preferred it to be a bit seared.
The star of the evening – raw pork – is a divisive dish that evokes differing opinions. One thing for sure that all diners will agree on is that the theatrics is impressive. The Ibérico Tartare is encased with smoke from apple wood chips, and flamboyantly revealed at the table. The tartare is topped with a ‘egg yolk’ made from spherified mango puree, and rimmed with dots of black charcoal mayonnaise. This very Instagramable dish is an acquired taste – for me it was good in small doses with the red wine. My wife passed on the dish, but our dinner companion loved it totally.
Saw this Steak dish on the kitchen pass and couldn’t resist taking a photo.
Another innovation from Chef Valero: Curry Leaf Ice-cream paired with strawberries cooked with Szechuan black pepper and topped with jasmine green tea gelatine. Sounds weird and complex, but the combo works very well. I like the aroma and mild bite of the curry leaves.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable evening. I love places like Coquo – comfortable and chic with cutting edge cuisine that remains delectable and affordable. Chef Toni Valero Ruiz & Sommelier Gustavo Arriaga make a good pair. If they can sustain the quality and the value of the dining expereince we had, it will soon not be easy to get a reservation here. It’s also obvious to me that Chef Valero still has a few culinary tricks up his sleeves; I look forward to coming back.
D1-G4-6, 1, Jalan Dutamas 1, Solaris Dutamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur,
Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur,
Phone: +60 36211 2822