Nexo Restaurant & Bar
Time Out says
You can tell a lot about a restaurant by the kind of customers it attracts. But at the swanky, glass-walled Nexo, I couldn’t. That’s because I was the only diner at a supposedly busy lunchtime, tucking into a heap of seafood paella and exchanging nervous glances with the only server around. So far, so awkward.
Outstanding Spanish restaurants in KL are like marbled ribbons of Jamón ibérico: They’re in a league of their own, boasting an elite reputation and basking in the buzz of the admiring public – it’s a tall order to fill. So it would seem almost inexcusable (or preposterous, depending on how famished you are) that Nexo’s chef was stuck in a traffic jam during my visit. I almost bid adiós to the restaurant until I read the menu, which displayed a streamlined selection of wines as well as dishes that reassure (tapas, paella and cold cuts) and excite (ibérico loin and suckling pig confit). Feeling curious, I decided to give it a chance.
First, the Spanish standard gambas tapa arrived in leisurely fashion – the plump shrimps were sautéed in olive oil and seasoned well, making its garlicky presence known. But what topped this granddaddy of small plates was the ibérico loin, a visually stunning dish cobbled together from seared pork loin flecked with crushed black pepper on a bed of mashed potatoes, asparagus, cherry tomatoes and a much-needed smear of vinegary sauce on the side. Ringed with a thin layer of fat, the ibérico loin, served sliced, revealed a pinkish centre – a telltale sign that gave away the meat’s moist and succulent texture.
The chef’s fondness for simplicity is just as persuasive in the aforementioned seafood paella but this Valencian pride at Nexo fell a bit short. Think of everything great about a paella: creamy rice with just a bit of resistance to the bite and the coveted socarrat (caramelised toasted rice bottom) most paella lovers look forward to scraping. Now, take half of those qualities away.
In my version, tender chicken chunks, shrimp and squid were beautifully distributed across the pan with abandon but the crunchy rice – a consistency the restaurant claimed to be the ‘real deal’ – yielded nearly the same texture as unpopped kernels.
This is the deal with TOKL: If a restaurant messes up the first time, we’ll be quite wary of giving it a second chance. As paying customers, all we ask is a good meal, and a bit of discipline. Nexo may have redeemed itself at the last minute by delivering a satisfying interpretation of the Spanish cuisine – if only its chef knew how to tell time.