Patricia Podorsek and Monica Tindall
There are guests and then there are guests. As a beautiful hotel located in the heart of Bukit Bintang, the Westin has no shortage of them, but until August 22, patrons of the Cuban restaurant Qba can enjoy the gifts of one very special guest, Chef Alain Mendiola, direct from the award-winning Hotel Saratoga in Havana.
Along with his suitcase and sense of adventure, Chef Alain has brought along signature dishes of his menu from “Anacaona Restaurant Bar” at the Hotel Saratoga, a delightful culinary detour from the usual delicious inroads of Chef Alfredo. A romantic respite from the urban bustle of Bukit Bintang, Qba’s soft lighting, Moorish architecture, and Latin music set an elegant backdrop to this culinary foray.
We began with two of Qba’s signature cocktails, the mojito and the caipirinha. Freshly prepared with loads of mint and lime, these refreshing drinks take the edge off the afternoon sun.
With our beverages, we nibbled on Chef Alain’s “Fritura de Malanga con Aderezo del Panal”, wonderfully crisp fritters made of the South American root vegetable, taro, and tossed lightly with citrus-infused honey. I found the interior flakier than a potato, almost like a fish cake, but with a subtler flavor. The satisfying crunch of the exterior makes these little bites highly addictive.
|Fritura de Malanga con Aderezo del Panal|
Of the starters, we sampled the regal “Coctel de Camarones con Salsa Rosa al Ron Anejo” (RM38+). Two intertwined jumbo prawns sit elegantly atop coconut cream, rum salsa, and a bit of salad like a royal couple on a throne. The jewel in their crown is the deceptively delicate flavor of coconut in what appears to be thousand island dressing. Chef Alain bases the sauce in coconut cream rather than mayonnaise for a healthier and more tropical flavor. Add the pineapple and rum salsa, and you practically want to grab your maracas!
|Coctel de Camarones con Salsa Rosa al Ron Anejo|
From the soup options, we tried the “Crema de Malanga con Camarones y Aceite de Albahaca” (RM32+), a puree of taro infused with basil oil. Taro holds a such a subtle flavor that the rich simplicity of the basil dominated the dish, and created a delightful enhancement to the grilled prawn.
|Crema de Malanga con Camarones y Aceite de Albahaca|
Our first main, “Magret a la Miel Perfumado con Hierbas Aromaticas” (RM52+), paired grilled duck breast with colorful seasonal vegetables for a very festive presentation. The medium-rare cut was tender, and flavored with a soulful cabernet reduction.
|Magret a la Miel Perfumado con Hierbas Aromaticas|
My favorite dish of the night, however, was the “Enchilado de Langosta,” not to be confused with the stuffed tortillas of Cuba’s neighbor. In this main, Chef Alain marries tender pieces of slipper lobster with smoky cumin and roasted tomatoes, underscored by a subtle heat that lingers tinglingly on the tongue for several moments after each delicious bite. The bit of chile is offset by a cool, creamy risotto for a well-balance plate.
|Enchilado de Langosta|
To satisfy the sweet tooth, Chef Alain’s menu supplies a treat most commonly eaten in Cuba during Semana Santa, where bread is soaked in milk and then pan-fried after an egg wash. His creative adaptation, “Torrijas de Chocolate en Almibar de Canela” (RM20+), uses chocolate bread rather than white, for a deeply moist and decadent cake not unlike tres leches. Alternatively, guests can indulge in the “Tarta de Almendra con Zabayon al Vino Blanco” (RM22+), a caramelized almond shell filled with icy smooth custard and topped with chopped pistachios.
|Tarta de Almendra con Zabayon al Vino Blanco|
A sizeable wine and cocktail list accompany the regular and guest menus at Qba, and it is well worth noting that Happy Hour at Qba, from 5:00 – 8:00pm Monday – Saturday, is an incredible value with select cocktails, house wines, and house beers all served at 50% of their normal price. This means that a glass of tasty Miguel Torres Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc, or Rose can be enjoyed for an impossible RM13, net! Few places in Bukit Bintang can boast this value, made even more attractive by the surrounding colors and sounds of Latin America.
|Happy Hour Wine priced at only RM13 Net per glass|
Special guests rarely stick around for long, so enjoy the culinary detour Chef Alain Mendiola brings to Qba only until 22nd August.
Reasons to visit: The regal prawn cocktail, the tender and smoky “Enchilado de Langosta,” and the comforting Torrija brought to KL directly from Havana on the creative wings of visiting Chef Alain Mendiola.
Qba Latin Bar and Grill
Westin Kuala Lumpur
199 Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
+60 3 2773 8581