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Thursday, 23 July 2015

Ohla Tapas & Cocktails @ The Intermark

Ever since I read raving reviews online by my favourite food blogs, The Yum List and eatdrinkkl, I've been wanting to try Ohla Tapas & Cocktails @ The Intermark for a while now and I'm glad I finally did one Saturday evening. 

Ohla is a modern contemporary Spanish restaurant and bar, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, serving tapas and drinks (wine, cocktails and beer).  As you approach the main entrance of Ohla from the sidewalk, you can catch a twinkling night scene of Barcelona city on its glass doors. 

Push open the door and you'll be greeted with a narrow but cosy dining area in a black-and-red theme with dim lighting.   There's one long bar counter with high chairs (that can probably sit about a dozen people) facing an open kitchen.  This would seem like the choice seats if you want to interact with and watch the chef in action but I think the majority of us prefer a more intimate space and sit at smaller tables and, luckily, there's an option for that now (replacing the previous long communal dining table).  These tables are just enough to fit another dozen diners or so.  As we were early, we managed to get a table for two (since only one other group of diners were there).  As the evening progressed and more diners came in, I noticed that their first choice was also the table seats (until they were all taken up).

I think I've probably eaten in one or two Spanish restaurants before this, so this could be my (and my friend's) very first introduction to authentic Spanish food.  We had our concerns at first, thinking we would be like 'a fish out of water' as we knew next to nothing about Spanish food or Spanish wines or whether we would even like the cuisine.  But all our concerns were laid to rest as soon as we sat down when a rather debonair gentleman (*blush blush*) came to our table with menus and introduced himself as the manager (we later learnt that he's Gustavo, Ohla's manager and sommelier).  He was so helpful, introducing and explaining to us the food and drinks that we immediately felt at ease (so no worries if you don't understand anything Spanish...kekeke)! ;)  He was also very friendly and engaged us in a light banter (when the restaurant wasn't as busy yet) and even introduced us to another equally suave gentleman (*wink wink*), the head chef, Toni.

Once we have placed our orders, a complimentary plate of marinated olives in aromatised extra virgin olive oil arrived at our table.  This is available in their Small Bites menu as a starter, so I was pleasantly surprised to get it complimentary.  On the plate were green and red olives, chilli peppers and gherkins that have been aromatised with spices of cinnamon, star anise, lemon, orange and black pepper.  I'm sure it's good for those who love olives but I've never been a fan (and neither was my friend), so we'll just politely say "no thanks" the next time we're served these.

We kicked off with an order of 'Boquerones' @ RM17.50 which are white anchovies pickled in vinegar, steeped in parsley oil and garlic, and served with some square breadsticks (almost biscuit-like textured) called reganas.

It was fresh and briny, but not strongly salty or garlicky, and went very well with the hard textured biscuit.

To eat, simply assemble a piece (or half a piece) of boquerone and some tiny greens on top of the biscuit.  We didn't think we would like it so much but it was so, so good...if this is a taste of things to come, I can't wait! :)

The first tapas to arrive was the Spanish Grilled Octopus @ RM34.50.  I don't know how Toni treated it but it was cooked to tender perfection before finishing off in the Josper oven!  The octopus was so tender, but not overly soft until it was mushy, with a slight bouncy texture still.  You can taste the freshness of the ocean in the octopus as I read somewhere that he brings in a whole fresh octopus and not the pre-cooked versions.

The grilled Mediterranean octopus was served on a bed of the smoothest potato mash and finished with a sprinkle of Pimentón de la Vera, a type of sweet-smoky Spanish paprika.  You would want to drink up every last drop of the sweet juices released from the octopus....and we did...with a spoon! :D  It was divine....but savour slowly as there are just six pieces! ;-)

Our next tapas was the Pan-Seared Foie Gras @ RM48 with a 62-degree sous-vide egg with black truffle shavings (actually just two pieces) on a bed of the silkiest potato puree.  The sous-vide egg was perfectly cooked with oozing goodness.  The soft and runny egg, the intense earthy mushroom flavour of the truffles (wished there were more) and the richness of the foie gras all blent together to make one heavenly bite!  Just when I thought how great it would be if I had some bread to mop up the very last bit of the oozy egg, Gustavo came over with some charcoal toasted bread slices...that's service for you!  What can I say....even the simple piece of bread was top notch with nice charred marks and a delicious smoky aroma from the bread being grilled in a charcoal (Josper) oven.

This was my first taste of foie gras and it was everything I imagined it to be.  It ticked all the right boxes...perfectly seared, rich, delicate, buttery and creamy all at once with a melt-in-the-mouth feel.  Awesome can't begin to describe how good it was!  I had left it so late to try foie gras because the dish is so expensive and I would want to be sure that it will be executed perfectly...and, at Ohla, it will.

Our final dish was a bit of a surprise in that it's not on their regular menu.  Gustavo brought to our table this beautiful looking pigeon (from Bresse, France) and asked if we would like to have it.  As I was planning to order the black rice cooked in squid ink with grilled langoustines, I asked him which was better.  He said that I could always return to try the squid ink rice but probably not the pigeon....hmmm...true...and when he mentioned rabbit was involved, I was sold.

Since it's not on their menu, I wouldn't know everything that's gone into the dish and, although they did explain how the dish was cooked, most of it was simply 'lost in translation' :D  But Toni was gracious enough to reply my email, so I'm going to describe it as best I can and hope I do the dish justice.  The pigeon dish @ RM85 featured two pieces of rare pigeon breast on a bed of Bomba rice (from la Albufera in Valencia) cooked with rabbit meat and caramelised onions and capsicum with some garlic and parsley.  When Gustavo delivered it to our table, he explained how best to eat it.  We were so excited and dived straight in and then realised we didn't take a photo of it! T_T  So, this is one half of the dish that has already been apportioned.  I guess I didn't do justice to the superb pigeon in terms of the presentation though.

The pigeon breast was pan fried to crisp up the skin and finished in the Josper oven.  The meat of the pigeon was a little raw but warm inside (as that's how it should be served...rare) as an overcooked pigeon would have been a definite 'no-no'!  I've actually eaten a piece of the pigeon breast and started cutting into the next piece before realising that I have still not taken a picture of it >.<  The meat is very lean, with a silky texture, but absolutely tender, moist and rich in taste....it was spectacular!  We were surprised that we loved it so much.  Prior to this, I've only eaten pigeon cooked Chinese style and it's usually fried or roasted (obviously a different type of pigeon).

This was the other portion.  As for the rice, Toni used the carcass of the pigeon to make a strong and reduced stock to capture the wild flavours of the bird in the rice.  The broth was so intensely flavoured that a spoonful of it...and it's an explosion of flavours in your mouth!  We mopped up every grain of that rice....it was excellente!
 
The meal ended on a high with a luscious dessert of caramelised bananas with brandy, house-made banana ice cream and popping dark chocolate candies @ RM20.50. 

I could definitely taste the brandy that coated the caramelised bananas as I'm not a drinker and any trace of liquor, however little, will show up on my taste buds.

This beautifully quenelled banana ice cream, I loved, as the intense flavour of the banana came through distinctively with a textural contrast provided by the chocolate candies...delicioso!

Of course you can't leave Ohla without sampling at least one drink from their extensive menu (it's even longer than the food) ;D  Since I don't drink, I was definitely 'a fish out of water' when it came to their drinks. 
 
But, luckily, Gustavo is ever ready to help and suggested the Rosado (Rose) to my friend.  Note that you can always taste the wine first to see if you like it and you're more than welcome to change if you don't.  This is Gustavo pouring out a sample for a taste test.
 
My friend liked it, so this is the Rosado 2014 @ RM25 a glass.  It's described as intense, fresh and red fruits and floral scents wine made by Garnacha (Navarra).
 
As for me, I obviously had to go with their mocktails (there are only four on the menu) and Gustavo recommended the Birjina Berdea @ RM17 (citrus, herbal and healthy mix of kiwi and basil).  Great recommendation...I loved this one, the kiwi and basil mix was very refreshing....truly a thirst quenching sensation!
 
I also had the Vermell @ RM15 (sweet and sour with strawberry and orange juice), my own choice, which I wasn't liking as much as the first one.  I detected a hint of bitterness through the drink.

We spent a good two hours plus here for our dinner.  You won't want to rush through a meal like this, one that you've paid top dollar for, you might as well enjoy the experience.  So, be sure to "stop and smell the roses" ;)

My Personal Opinion

There were so many things I loved about this place that I don't know where to begin.  First of all, I loved the intimate setting of the place...it's not your quintessential tapas bar as they serve food of fine dining standard in an environment that's less flashy and snobbish.  It's great for an intimate dinner for two or a relaxed dinner for four (there's only three tables for 2 - 3 and one for four, the rest are bar seatings).

Secondly, Gustavo's service is stellar!  You'll be well taken care of here and you'll feel like you're the most important person in the room.  And, finally, of course, it goes without saying that the food that Toni puts out is spectacular...from the phenomenal octopus to the remarkably exquisite foie gras to the extremely impressive pigeon to the stunning dessert.  You can feel that it's done with love and passion to make your dining experience an awesome one.

I'm aware that prices may be above the average spending of the working class (on a regular basis), but it should be fine for special occasions.  After all, we should give ourselves (or our loved ones) a nice treat every now and then.  It's perfect for a night out for two (but not suitable for children though)...and be ready to spend north of (or at least) RM150 per person (or you could try their more affordable lunch specials).

There'll be people who will ask....why spend so much for such a small quantity of food, but my answer to them is......it's the quality of the ingredients and the great dining experience you get that will be all worth it. 

If you've never had authentic Spanish cuisine, Ohla will be a great introduction and one that will leave you wanting more!  Give it a try and you'll truly appreciate what they have to offer.  Come for the food....and stay for a drink...or two, maybe three? =)
 
I've never been more eager to return to a restaurant....until Ohla!  It was an unforgettable experience.....and a revisit is definitely on the cards!
 
Ohla Tapas & Cocktails
Lot G-18 Ground Floor
The Intermark
No 348 Jalan Tun Razak
50400 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 012-663 2651
 

16 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you tried it! Isn't is magic watching Toni work in the kitchen? It's hard to believe that that is the kitchen! Many people think that there's a kitchen out back, but what you see behind the counter is it. Spotless! Yum, yum.

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    1. Yes, with an open kitchen like that you have to be meticulous, organised and calm....and Toni and his team definitely is! =)

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  2. No croquettas? I've tried rabbit meat before, a friend treated me to that - cholesterol free, she said. Nice....but I can't wipe out the images of those cute, lovely furry creatures off my head. LOL!!!

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    1. Yeah, rabbit meat is one of the healthiest meat to eat. Well, you can think of those cute, furry creatures you love as bunnies....and those you eat as rabbits...kekeke! :D

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  3. That sure is something different, eh? I agree that once in a blue moon, there's nothing wrong with giving yourself and loved ones an expensive treat. I would love to have an experience at Ohla and try something out of the ordinary. Since that pigeon dish is not on the menu, I'll have to be very lucky to be able to taste that one. Must check with my brother if he is game for some real Spanish food!

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    1. I hope you and your brother will love the food....and can overlook the small portions...hee..hee (since both of you are big-eaters). It's a different experience...one I'm sure you'll enjoy! ;)

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  4. i love your review of ohla ... you have a great way of telling the story of your experience, and it certainly feels like we were there with you! mmm, that pigeon looks mighty appetising, even after you ate part of it. and i felt like nodding in agreement with everything you wrote about the food and the fine people who work so hard and well here :)

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    1. I'm glad you love my review...thanks for the kind words, Sean. You know me, I love to tell stories with my dining experience (if there's one to tell). Yes, they're a very good team and they put out great food! :)

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  5. How come you did not give a review on rabbit meat? I can only eat this for very special special occasion due to the location and the price. Good to know you enjoyed you meal.

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    1. Actually, rabbit meat kind of tastes like chicken...only better...it's lean but tender. It's good to treat oneself to something really good once in a while!

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  6. Not really fancy Spanish food, just a personal preference, no offence ya :P

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    1. None taken....everyone is entitled to their preference. Maybe you can try Ohla....it may change your mind...haha! ;D

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  7. Are you sure your review is not tainted by an overwhelming preferential bias due to Gustavo and Toni? :D :D :D

    Still, reading your description on the foie gras and the pigeon rice dish makes my mouth water already! I think that pigeon dish is in fact paella a la Valencia? That's how Valencians do their paella, with rabbit and pigeon..

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    1. That was exactly what I thought as I know authentic paella uses chicken, rabbit and snails (pigeon, I'm not so sure). Anyway, I'm no expert, so I don't know what they call that dish. Didn't your first taste of foie gras feel like that? ;)

      Ok-lah, maybe just a teensy-weensy bias......I can't help it if they put out stellar food and drinks...and 'sweetened' it up with equally stellar service! Muacks!! ;D

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  8. The food looks really good!

    I like the foie gras with 63 degree egg and it was really nice of the chef to present you with the special pigeon dish. Yeah, I initially thought it was a paella variation as well, with the use of Bomba rice. I would have loved that. Definitely a KIV.

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    1. I'd be very happy waking up to a breakfast of foie gras and egg....daily! ;D And yes, the pigeon was special. Hope you and your partner get to try the food soon...and like it. I think you'll enjoy the drinks even more! ;)

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