Tantalising new discoveries
A whole new world
It's been no small measure of joy for me that I've been privy to discovering delightful new eateries each time I've been in KL, because apart from the immense pleasure these new taste sensations yield, it also speaks volumes about the exciting gastronomic times we live in. This trip has been no exception, with Coquo being the gustatory highlight of an intense, albeit all too brief, visit.
When I first interviewed Toni Valero a couple of years ago, he had been brought in to helm Ohla Tapas, and it was evident that a difference in opinion between his creative vision and that of the proprietors' was causing some conflict. It's heartening then that he has had this opportunity to open his own restaurant, because as I had hoped, it has provided him with a wonderful canvas on which to express his considerable talents. Happily too, the menu is a breathtaking marriage of experimentation and possibility, and incorporates a good array of Malaysian produce, which once again indicates the feasibility of creating truly wonderful cuisine without depending solely on the crutch of imported ingredients. To wit: local razor clams cooked in brine flirt with Pedro Ximenez sherry, while a briny squid and seaweed salad that's doused with a nuanced okra stock has its provenance in Pulau Ketam. Both are quietly sensational and by no means inferior to the Hokkaido scallops that were cured with calamansi then wreathed with black olive crumbs and an ephemeral but voluminous coconut foam.
A meal is most enjoyable when it's a journey of discovery, and so it was with our dinner at Coquo, with Toni continuously unveiling thoughtful creations like his exquisitely tender octopus that was accompanied by boiled potatoes, saffron foam and Pimenton de La Vera smoked paprika, and a tuna tataki with an oloroso sherry infusion, pucuk paku, caramelised onions and sesame oil. But while the seafood did much to delight our palates, it proved to be the supporting act, because it was the meat dishes that stole the show for me. The Basque cecina with Manchego shavings and olive oil—simple yet thoroughly effective—was a masterclass in texture and depth of flavour, but ultimately it was the Iberico tartare, a porcine twist on the original beef version, that ran away with my heart. Cubes of very fresh, almost raw, pork veiled in a seductively aromatic smoke, and topped with a sweet yet piquant mango 'yolk' and charcoal mayonnaise, proved, if proof was needed, the prodigious gastronomic mettle of Toni and his team. The drama of the cloche and the show-stopping revelation of this dish are succinct indication that Coquo isn't here to take any prisoners. Throw into the fray sommelier Gustavo Arriaga's faultless wine selections and service, and I will happily wager with anyone that Coquo is poised to throw out the rule book and to set the bar ever higher. I, for one, can't wait.
D1-G4-6, Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur, +603-6211 2822