Sunday, April 24, 2016

Coquo @ Solaris Dutamas, Outside Publika

Chef Toni Valero Ruiz & sommelier Gustavo Arriaga are back: The two men who powered the currently-closed Ohla Tapas have resurfaced at Coquo, a notable new restaurant swathed in sleek shadows, with a menu that measures how a perceptive foreign chef can tailor his craft to fit seamlessly into the local milieu while keeping his culinary style & vision comfortably intact.

Coquo signals a fresh turn for Toni in crucial ways - here, he challenges & stretches himself by relying on an impressive diversity of both Malaysian & imported produce, pushing beyond his original Spanish know-how to incorporate contemporary cooking techniques that transcend national borders. A glance at the menu illustrates Coquo's sense of ambition & adventure: Razor clams cooked in brine infused with Pedro Ximenez sherry (RM21) & squid partnered strikingly with a 'miso sea stone' toast-like creation, seaweed salad & light okra stock (RM32) can be traced easily to Pulau Ketam, while meaty Mediterranean anchovies, pickled with parsley oil (RM4 apiece), & plump Hokkaido scallops, cured with calamansi in a twist on ceviche, made textured & tantalising with aromatic coconut air & piquant black olive crumbs (RM9 apiece), emerge from more distant shores.

Nearly half of Coquo's introductory selection speaks of the ocean: Our personal favourite is the tender octopus with boiled potatoes, saffron foam & Pimenton de La Vera smoked paprika (RM41), though fans of fish might gravitate toward the 55-degree cod with thin, crisp lotus roots on a creamy cushion of cauliflower, daikon & parsnip risotto with vichyssoise (RM36) & the Japanese tuna tataki with Spanish oloroso sherry infusion, Malaysian pucuk paku fern leaves, caramelised onions & sesame oil (RM37). Note that Coquo is in a soft-launch stage (with seats by reservation only this week, & full service to commence May 3), so the kitchen may still be fine-tuning some of its recipes; next month onward should be ideal for visiting.

Meat here is meant for hot-blooded carnivores - the 68-degree, Josper-oven-cooked suckling pig seeks to provoke primal lust, complemented by an herb reduction, yam puree & garlic mayonnaise (RM39), while the Basque County top-tier cecina proves seductive in its resonant depth of flavour, showered with grated Manchego cheese & extra virgin olive oil (RM22). Balance your meal with a Catalonian escalivada of grilled vegetables with garlic oil covered in spinach leaves (RM24) & the marinated mixed olives & pickles in bouquet garni herbs-infused olive oil (RM14; this has been a staple for Toni since Ohla's first week).

Saving the best nearly for last: Iberico tartare, the rare recipe that calls for close-to-raw fresh pork, suffused with a sultry smokiness, made to be mixed with a sweet-sour mango 'yolk' & charcoal mayonnaise (RM41). If Coquo requires a signature dish, this could be it, presented with show-stopping panache, robustly nuanced on the palate.

Desserts are distinctive too: Curry leaf ice cream with Szechuan black pepper, strawberries & jasmine green tea gelatin (RM18) is a genre-bending, mind-boggling concoction that we can't decide whether we like or not. We do love the dark chocolate ice cream though, intensely rich & smooth, with a spicy finish of cili padi, enhanced with mint gelee, green apple compote, oranges & coffee soil (RM17). And with a sommelier like Gustavo, there are lots of thoughtful wine choices to accompany your meal - by the glass, the repertoire ranges from a Spanish sparkling to a Californian rose, an Argentinean white to Chilean & French reds.

Coquo
D1-G4-6, Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-6211-2822
This week by reservation only. Full dinner service daily from May 3, except Mondays.

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15 comments:

  1. Whoa tat Iberico tartare is LOVE!

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    1. Rebecca: ya! an interesting change from the regular beef tartare ;)

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  2. When I saw the first photos, I instantly recognised the duo coz I'm a big, huge fan of their food and of Ohla. Great that they've opened another restaurant (which I hope to try). When I saw the words "currently" closed, I was so unhappy. Phew, glad to hear that Ohla is not "permanently" closed as I have fond memories of my awesome dining experience there. Any particular reason or reasons for relocating you care to share? Wherever they pop up next, you can be sure I'll follow! ;)

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    1. Contact.ewew: yeah, glad that the two of them have a new 'home' ... i'm not sure about the circumstances behind ohla (all i've heard is speculation), and there was word that they might actually reopen somewhere else, with a different team perhaps, but i don't know anything concrete :)

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  3. Wow the food here looks good! Didn't know that Ohla has closed. We were there not long ago right?

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    1. CK: yeah, we were at ohla last year, but i forgot which month! hey, you're working at the intermark, you should have noticed la :)

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  4. Wowwww!!!! The look of concentration on those guys' faces, sheer dedication! Suckling pig, you said. Ok, I'm in. Hehehehehe!!!!!

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    1. Suituapui: oh yes, the folks here are quite serious about their work ... a good thing for customers! :) haha, yup, the suckling pig should be one of the stars here ;)

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  5. Looks like my kinda place! :D

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    1. Ciki: i think you'd have quite a memorable and pleasant two to three hours here! :)

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  6. That Iberico tartare photo is smoking hot, literally! ;)

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    1. Baby Sumo: heheh, in terms of popularity, it could become the most popular savoury item here! :)

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  7. Good looking chefs there, hehe ^__*
    The "naked" razor clams, 1st time see such cooking style~~

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    1. Choi Yen: heh, glad you like the look of them :) ya, i think the cooking preparation for that is meant to keep the focus on the clams ;)

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  8. I apologise for this lengthy post, but I feel your readers deserve to know:

    I rarely (in fact, never) write reviews about restaurants. But the experience that I had tonight at Coquo was so unpleasant and unprofessional that I feel compelled to share what happened:

    It all started normally - ushered to our seats, the floor managed (Gustavo) gave us some recommendations, we made the orders and waited for our food. Our first appetisers arrived - razor clams. Had the first piece, it tasted fine; but the second piece was clearly unfresh. And we called Gustavo to explain what had just happened.

    And then it started to unravel. A normal, dignified restaurant would naturally apologise, offer a change in dish / a new portion, or to take the item off the bill. No big deal. After all, you can't really blame a restaurant for 1-2 bad clams in a large batch.

    To our collective shock, the floor manager decided to argue that he was 100% sure all clams which came through their kitchen are fresh and that he would not change our dish. He would only remove the dish from the table if we admitted that "we didn't like the clams, and not that it wasn't fresh". He proceeded to imply in a condescending tone that we didn't know how razor clams taste like. To which we responded that we have been eating clams for years - and could definitely tell when one wasn't fresh. Then he diverted the conversation to say that "we cook our clams with minimal flavouring" - which confused us a little, as surely that was just clutching at straws.

    Eventually, Gustavo reluctantly brought the dish away. We continued on with our dinner (despite the sour taste of the incident), hoping that the service staff would come to their senses eventually and do the very least they could do, write off the item from the bill.

    Fast forward, when the bill arrived - the razor clams were still there. We proceeded to ask whether the restaurant was actually going to charge us for a dish we barely touched. They insisted. We informed them that they were acting very unprofessionally and this was definitely the last time we would ever step foot in their restaurant if this behaviour persisted. They didn't budge.

    So we paid the bill in full. We didn't want to spoil our night any further, it was a lost cause. While waiting for the bill, we signalled for the chef's attention (who this whole time was a silent observer to the whole situation). We re-explained what had happened to the chef hoping the owner of the restaurant would be more socially apt in dealing with this issue. And this is when things got ugly - the chef was even ruder, insisting that we were the ones who couldn't differentiate between an fresh and unfresh clam. We mentioned that this whole episode was extremely shocking for us and that we would not be back - to which he smugly implied that it was our choice and that there was nothing he could do.

    Well and good being arrogant if his food was amazing, the rest of the meal was mediocre at best.

    But if ever a service institution stoops to such low levels of dignity, to repeatedly insist that the customer is wrong, to question whether a customer can differentiate between a fresh and unfresh food, to insist that whether or not a customer returns does not matter; future patrons deserve the right to know.

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