Tapas Club, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur – Authentic Spanish Food

[UPDATE: This restaurant is permanently closed.]

The Spanish food scene in KL may not be as well established as, say, Italian or French – but it has been steadily gaining popularity in the last few years. One of the newer places is Tapas Club @ Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, a lively spot where you can share a few glasses of wine with friends, and of course, lots of tapas.

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Prior to this visit, I had literally zero experience with Spanish food, so I was surprised (and pleased) to have won an Instagram contest organised by the restaurant, to host two people for a Wine Tasting (worth RM120++ each). Of course I had to bring N; him having worked at a wine company and also being from the Philippines where they have a strong Spanish influence in their cuisine.

Two hours later after a horrendous jam (the roads were flooded in the city), we were finally at the restaurant. Already I loved the ambience – the wall racks lined with fine wines, the colourful streamers hanging from the ceiling which lent the whole space a festive vibe, as well as the cosy, ambient lighting.

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We had four wines for the night: Arzuaga Rosae 2018, Fan D Oro 2017, La Planta 2017 and Tinto Arzuaga Crianza 2016. I’m not much of an alcohol drinker, but if I had to, I prefer wine over other spirits. The first was the Arzuaga Rosae, a mild rose-wine from the Ribera del Duoro region, one of Spain’s “11 quality wine regions”. It was fruity and light, with a long finish and subtle floral hints.

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The wine tasting also included three complimentary plates of tapas and a plate of cheese. The ham and mushroom croquettes were extremely addictive, with a crispy, breaded crust and a creamy blend of ham and mushroom, respectively.

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Fan D Oro 2017 is a creamy, balanced white wine that is ideal for seafood, cured cheeses, white meats and vegetables. We paired it with Spanish omelette and cod fish, as well as the cheese which came served with crackers. The latter was absolutely divine; drizzled over with a dash of olive oil, the block of cheese was rich and more creamy than salty.

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La Planta 2017 was N’s favourite. He drank both his glass and mine. I had stopped drinking by then (designated driver + bad with alcohol; I break out into hives).

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Was still feeling hungry so I ordered another tapas – the highly recommended Gambas Allajilo (Garlic Prawns) (RM25). 

If you’re ever here and could only order one tapas – this is it. Everything we had was tasty, but this was easily the best dish of the night. Not only were the prawns sizable (and peeled, for all you lazy folks out there), they were also coated in a beautifully rich and addictive garlic sauce. I know tapas is all about sharing, but this was one of those dishes I could have finished all on my own. Maybe order a couple more if you’re here with friends!

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For mains, we had the Arroz Negro (squid ink) paella (RM68). Served in a huge pan with squid and clams, the dish could easily feed two or three people. The seafood flavour was actually pretty subtle, and the rice had a great texture. Of course, the best bits were the soccarat, which is the hardened layer at the bottom of the pan.

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We also had entertainment from these two very talented chaps.

We thoroughly enjoyed our first visit to Tapas Club, and will definitely be making a return trip soon. Even if you’re not a wine drinker, the food here is awesome and tastes authentic. A great place to get acquainted with the flavours of Spanish cuisine.

Thank you very much again for hosting us!

TAPAS CLUB 

Lot 7.01.01, Level 7 @ Dining Loft, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, 168, Bukit Bintang Street, Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur

Phone: +603 2110 2718

Opening hours (daily): 10.30AM – 10 PM

tapasclub.com/malaysia

*Photos not watermarked taken by N. 

Food Review: Lesa, Melbourne

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. If I had to choose a place to live (other than KL), Melbourne would definitely be on top of the list. Why? Aside from a thriving arts and culture scene, they’ve also got awesome coffee. And of course, food. Australians in general are big on food and wine, but Melbourne is on another level. Not only is the scene one of the world’s most sophisticated, you literally cannot find food that sucks here, lol. Or at least not any that I’ve tried.

Enter Lesa, upstairs from another popular resto, Embla, along Russel Street. Ascend a dark and narrow staircase to find a cosy spot that is contemporary and slightly reserved; not too casual but not intimidating either. Rough, brick walls are complemented by sleek wooden furniture, the large glass windows allowing for plenty of sunlight to filter in during the day. It’s the perfect place for intimate dinner dates or a long lunch with business associates and/or friends – preferably with a glass of wine from their extensive list.

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Our four-course menu kicked off with Fermented potato flatbread, shiitake and macadamia. Fluffy with a crisp crust, the bread was elevated to new heights with the macadamia cream and the rich earthiness of the shiitake oil.

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Next was Spanner Crab, Floratina Tomatoes, Pine Nut & Laurel, a delightful combination of flavours pairing the natural sweetness of the carb with the tartness of the tomatoes, the slight bitter sharpness of the laurel and pine nut. Being a big fan of seafood, this was right up my alley!

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My favourite of the lot was the third course: Lamb rump, chocolate capsicum, garlic and almond. Chocolate capsicum sounds like a crazy combination, but it worked surprisingly well – it was almost like eating a mild and chewy sweet. The lamb was the star of the show – perfectly pink and succulent, with just the right balance of lean and fat.

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Sides of roast potato and reine de glace iceberg, rocket and hazelnut. Now people who know me know I’m not a big fan of vegetables, but these were so fresh and nicely dressed that it had me going for seconds.

 

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Last but not least was the innovative Roast potato parfait, chocolate, sourdough, lemongrass. This is one of those non-sweet desserts that do just as well as an ending to the meal; loved the creamy texture of the parfait and the fragrant notes of lemongrass.

Originality is definitely Lesa’s strong suit; the dishes are creative and put together in ways that many other restaurants will not even dare to go near with a ten-foot pole. Presentation can appear sparse, but what really matters here is flavour.

LESA 

level 1/122 Russell St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

Phone: +61 3 9935 9838

Business hours: Wed & Sat (dinner service only – 5.30PM – 11PM), Thurs & Fri (lunch and dinner, 12 – 3PM, 5.30 – 11PM). Closed from Sun – Tues.

lesarestaurant.com.au

 

A Countryside Winery Experience @ Fowles Winery, Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria

When you talk about visiting Australia, big cities like Melbourne are probably what come to mind. I spent my first day tucking into artisanal coffee at a hipster cafe-cum-roaster, stuffing my face on freshly baked breads, gelato and cheeses in the city’s Little Italy district, before ending the night on a high note with some fine dining. While there’s certainly plenty to see and do in the city, there’s a different kind of adventure when you set out beyond, into the surrounding region of Victoria. 

Known as the third largest producer of wines, Victoria boasts stunning vineyards and hills, with rustic countryside views and fresh produce served in homely farmsteads. So much so that the tourism authority has put together a food and wine trial itinerary, where visitors can literally eat and drink their way across the region from one rural town to another. Which is what I set off to do on my second day. 😀

Our first stop was to Fowles Winery in Avenel, located in the Strathbogie Ranges some 100km north of Melbourne. Our car rolled past hills and through segments of bush. The grass was yellow and the trees had that dry tinge as it was autumn time, but the  views were gorgeous all the same. Arriving at their cellar door cafe, we were greeted by a modern-looking circular structure sitting atop a hill. The interior was spacious yet cosy, with lots of sunlight filtering in from the glass windows.

Shop area selling wines.

Other products, such as sauces.

Was still groggy from the early morning wake up call, so had a coffee for starters…

Although a relatively young brand, the family owned Fowles Wine has been making waves in the winery scene, winning the great Australian Shiraz Challenge for Australia’s best shiraz, while their cellar door was awarded Hall of Fame status by the Victorian Tourism Awards. One of their best selling ranges is the quirkily named Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch, which are available in Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz varietals. The concept and blends were developed specifically around game, so it wasn’t surprising that they had a tasting platter that paired wines with game meat. Unusual, since I’ve only seen wines paired with items such as seafood or regular red meat.

PS: (Above) real photography and (below) my shitty photo… this is why businesses need to invest in a professional photographer xD

Initially we were only here to taste the wines but the friendly proprietor Matt insisted we go with the whole experience, so he had the kitchen whip up ‘the Gamekeeper’s platter’ for us. My favourite was the pale-coloured Riesling, which had a flowery aroma to it with hints of lime, citrus blossom and notes of rose petal that gave it a fine and complex flavour that lingered on in the mouth. To go with it, crispy grilled trout with horseradish and lemon cream. It was nice to try the wine before on its own, and then after with the trout to really bring out the flavour of the seafood and horseradish. The other game meats we tried included a pork and rabbit rillette, duck and venison.

Why hunting and game meat, you might ask? In an interview, Matt explained that meat in the wild has a different texture and flavour compared to commercial meat – which creates a completely different wine and dine experience. As a hunter, one is also confronted with the realities of meat-eating: you actually go out, hunt, track down and kill the game before it’s served to the table, so it creates a respect for the animal and less wastage.

Aside from food and wine tastings at the cellar door, interested visitors can join private guided tours to find out more about the wine making process as part of their Ultimate Winery Experiences programme. Those who sign up for the Stone Dwellers Experience will get to enjoy a scenic coach ride to the vineyards and winery, as well as tank and barrel room tastings before adjourning to take in the scenic views of the central Victorian plains while sipping on a glass of wine.

 

We were pressed for time so we couldn’t go on the tour, but it was certainly a great experience to kickstart our food and wine trial across the Victoria region. More to come!

FOWLES WINE 

1175 Lambing Gully Rd, Avenel VIC 3664, Australia

Open daily: 9am – 5pm

Phone: +61 3 5796 2150 

fowleswine.com

 

*Photos not watermarked are courtesy of Fowles Wine

*Views expressed are the writer’s own

 

 

Review: Bacchus Wine & Tapas Bar @ The Row, Jalan Doraisamy KL

[UPDATE: This restaurant is permanently closed]

KL-ites and foodies are always looking for the next hangout spot, and the chic, artsy The Row @ Jalan Doraisamy KL, converted from a row of old shophouses, fulfils all criteria. Located just next to Sheraton Imperial KL, visitors will find cafes, eateries, restaurants and art galleries within a short stretch of buildings. One of these is Bacchus Wine & Tapas Bar, the place to go for affordable but quality wines, paired with excellent Spanish tapas.

Bacchus is the name of the Greek god of wine, and here is where you’ll find plenty – over 250 kinds of red, white and rose wines from Spain, Italy, Australia, Georgia and New Zealand, among others. The cosy dining area, which is perfect for intimate sessions with friends and family, is bathed in soft yellow lights. Furniture is of the wooden variety with dark grey walls, tastefully decorated with wine bottles and crates.

In one corner, a black leather couch sits underneath a shelf lined with their best selling wines, such as the Perth CEO range from Australia’s Barossa Valley and Margaret River. Neighbouring tables rang out with laughter over the clink of cutlery and wine glasses. A group of colleagues, still dressed in office attire, were enjoying a night out with food, drinks and company. It’s central location makes it a popular haunt with the office crowd.

Bacchus owner Kenneth Gan says: “Wine is always seen as expensive, or ‘high end’. My idea is to make wine affordable so that people can enjoy it at every meal.  Gan, who is part of a 1000-strong wine club, says that Bacchus was conceived because club members needed a place to run events, club gatherings, wine tasting sessions and to share ideas, knowledge and history on the alcoholic beverage.

Noticing that many people seemed to be turned away by the idea of drinking wine due to its perception of being ‘expensive’, Gan started sourcing for wines that were affordable and value for money, especially those priced between RM80 to RM200 but were still of good quality. Prices on the menu range from as low as RM75 per bottle to RM200 and above. They also carry vintage wines costing thousands.

The open bar area.

We paid a visit upstairs where events and functions are held.

Enough sightseeing – it was time to tuck in to the food and wine. To kick off the night, we tried a white wine called Santa Luz Alba Chardonnay 2013 Valle Central. Gan taught us newbies the proper way to hold a wine glass: at the stem instead of cupping it, as our body temperature would affect the taste.  The wine was slightly sweet, with a fruity flavour and tart aftertaste.

Bacchus delivers with the formidable chef Angie Hiew, a pioneer behind Spanish restaurant Flamenco and who has over 20 years of culinary experience.We sampled the Gambas Al Ajillo, or Garlic Prawns (RM18). Sizable prawns, cooked to a beautiful orange, was topped with loads of crispy fried garlic and drizzled over with oil. It looked simple, but tasted divine as the fragrant garlic brought out the sweet seafood flavour.

Next came the Salmon Namasake with Wasabi Mayo (RM18). The sashimi, served with spicy wasabi, was prepared with salmon belly which was fresh and fatty.

We were lucky to savour the Braised Pork Belly (RM18), their best selling dish. It gets so many orders that the kitchen has to limit it to just 50 sets a day! Preparation is time consuming, as the pork has to be braised for three hours, before it is lightly seared to seal in the juices.The thick slices of belly came soaked in a light but flavourful consomme, along with broccoli, carrots and cherry tomatoes.

It was heaven at first bite. The meat was extremely tender; melting on the tongue like cotton candy. I literally closed my eyes as I ate it – it was that good!

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One thing the place prides itself in is in their sauces, which are all prepared in-house. “We don’t buy any of them. We even make our own mayonnaise,” Gan proclaimed.Other offerings at Bacchus include beef meatballs, fried calamari, tortillas, chorizos and bruschetta; all perfect finger food to munch on while sipping on a glass of wine.

The next step, according to Gan, would be to introduce a larger variety of tapas and wine pairings, with Thai, Japanese and even Chinese cuisine. He hopes to shift the perception on drinking from beer, whisky and cognac to wine as a mainstream beverage.

“If you get a bottle of wine here among friends, you might be paying only RM15 per pax, which is about the same as a juice or coffee,” he said.

BACCHUS WINE BAR

52, The Row, Jalan Doraisamy, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 012-330 7712

Business Hours: Mon – Thurs (12pm – 12am), Sat (4pm – 2am) Closed on Sundays.