Time Out says
Note: Ohla Tapas & Cocktails is now closed.
Every now and again, a new restaurant swoops in to shake up the fine dining scene, pulling in camera-slinging spectators and an onslaught of blog reviews. Three months later, attention diverts and all parties reposition themselves back to the start line. In one swift, unforeseen move, the smack-bang arrival of Ohla Tapas & Cocktails has changed it all. Before its opening about eight months ago, KL had never seen a young chef as masterly, as passionate and as present as Ohla’s Toni Valero. Formerly of El Celler de Can Roca and Mugaritz – taking first and fourth place respectively on San Pellegrino’s 2013 world’s best restaurants list – Toni is single-handedly shifting the course of Spanish cuisine in KL.
Executing fine-dining techniques minus snooty waiters and sparkly glassware, Ohla revolutionises in KL the much-needed concept of fine, perfectly executed food in an accessible setting. It doesn’t aim to be a scene-stealing behemoth, but instead appeals to the tapas-loving everyman. As Ohla is shaped into a long bar facing the cooking station, Toni encourages diners to sit across from him to chat as he whizzes puree, shovels pans in ovens and garnishes alfalfa sprouts onto dainty meats. All three of my visits to Ohla have been enhanced by this culture of casual chitchat; whether Toni gushes about importing river prawns from the Mediterranean Sea or demonstrates the nuances of a sous vide machine, he speaks with a somewhat naïve childlike joy that reels you in.
Though limited, the menu is both focused and thrilling with the crown handed to the Mediterranean seafood black rice with langoustine. Marketed as paella, the short-grain rice is slicked with squid ink, tossed with diced scallops and topped with two langoustines whose pincers stretch out in a stance of worship. The rice is firm and delightfully salty while the seafood is juicy when tugged and twisted. The Spanish grilled octopus meanwhile adopts an inimitable char from the Josper oven, and teases me into the slow-cooked Iberico suckling pork – a gelatinous square pillow of pig softened by its own fat.
The roasted chicken cannelloni is one of the menu’s more interesting additions – instead of pasta sheets, Toni uses sticky milk film to form tubes around the chicken before soaking the lot in béchamel. It’s a rich dish of sorts, and manages to avoid depending on the convenience of cream. The foie gras, seared the right shade of golden, disintegrates with only a nudge of the fork, and is positioned aside a gloriously timed confit of egg and an airy bed of truffled mash.
If you get Toni to recommend off-menu specials, prepare for a string of enticing propositions. On my third visit, I splash on orange-tinged salmon cooked sous vide-style with a side of crusty flash-fried salmon skin, a rather outstanding duo of raw river prawns, elegantly assembled scallop tartare with tuna stock, and for dessert, caramelised bananas with banana ice cream. All of them leave me intoxicated, basking in the afterglow of an exceptional meal; Ohla isn’t just a flash in the pan – it’s a slow-cooking braise.