Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ohla - Quite OK Lah…

July 10 2015 - This was a fairly late arrangement - a surprise birthday party organised by the Pork Man for his lenglui. We got the call a couple of days before and the venue got firmed up the day after. 

Had never heard of the place prior to our friend's SMS, and all he said was it was a tapas bar at the Intermark. Always game for a new place, we naturally said yes. We parked up in the Hotel Car park and took the obligatory handphone photo of the parking location - nothing worse than searching for your car after a good meal in a hot and sweaty and humid underground carpark. Just got to make sure your handphone battery doesn't go flat. The place was a bit difficult to find from the car park and the people working at the hotel also did not seem to know where it was. However, a bit of cowsense and following the nose led us to the outside entrance of the Intermark and finding the Ohla perched outside the building and looking out onto the busy Tun Razak road.

We were slightly early so we decided to sit at the bar with an aperitif. The Ohla is a narrow strip of a room with a bar on one half and a table for 12 in the other. Ambience a bit dark and modern young, quite upmarket swish and a shade austere but cool and quite funky. And a bit cramped. Not much space to swing a cocktail let alone a proverbial cat. Not that one would do such a thing. At least not in this age of instant trial and judgement on the Facebook - swing a living thing anywhere near a phone with a video camera and you are judged for life. Yes. 

Pork Man arrived five minutes after we did and we claimed the table. Ordered some wines which were planted in the ice bucket for the dinner and everyone got stuck into some tasty cocktails. 

To be frank, I remember little about the food, though the starter tapas were brilliant - salty anchovies, tasty duck and something else. And the olives - little salty beauties they were. 

We had a range of tapas dishes to each get a taste. The Roast Chicken Canneloni was a bit cold, but that might have been the dish style.

The suckling pig was a belter - moist, beautifully tender, absolute cracker. Could have come straight out of a Spanish oven. Excellent skin. 

The Octopus was for some reason softish and milky, whilst the Squid Ink Paella felt a total assault of salt, way too much for my tongue to take. Having so said, the combo with the scallop and langoustine was texturally good. 

My experience of the service was not initially strong. I asked one of the staff to please pour some of the now nicely chilled white for the table. I think I saw the staff member gesture to (presumably) one of the underlings to do this, which he failed to be able to do due to being in a rush and under other orders to get some food out. After about a minute and when this staff member failed to step up to help, I got up and started to crack the wine myself - that's me; if the staff can't or won't do it then I will. Not for any aim to embarrass them into action, just because it needs to get done and I am thirsty. The staff member in question still did nothing to come and help with the wine - just stood there watching, looking all important but not stepping into the breach when it had become clearly necessary. Hmmmm....   All of a sudden the sommelier rushed up and ripped the bottle from me. I explained his colleague's absence of assistance quite vehemently. The staff member in question just stood there thick face and pretending not to notice (actually, this was pretty much all this person seemed to do all night, stand around and try to look important but doing pretty much nothing productive - not sure how high this staff member was in the hierarchy but it's difficult to see anyone lasting long in this business with the kind of attitude on display that evening). 

The rest of the staff were nothing short of excellent, getting food and drink to the table in fast time and good humour and efficient professional style. Even the washroom cleaner who had enough suss to get out of the way whilst I was going in. I tipped him for this - got to recognise the good service when you get it. 

Reading Surekha Ragavan's very well written review on the Time Out website, seems that Chef Toni Valero is a man of skill and experience, having cut culinary teeth in such eateries as El Celler de Can Roca and the legendary Mugaritz. Will have to find out how he comes to Kuala Lumpur. 

Someone in the party thought it was difficult to see how the Ohla was going to make serious money - it is a very small place and once full, it's pretty much done punters-wise. They will park up at the bar and slowly chew on the tapas and sip their beer or wine through the night. Unless it's the start of a chain and Chef will look to emulate predecessors who built their empires in the city. Good luck hermano. Didn't see the bill so maybe the premium is marked up to reflect. Though the wine prices seemed not unfair and proved very good value and tasty.

Ohla is worth a visit just to tick it off the list and taste how suckling pig should really be cooked. For me, is not too sure when a return will be imminent - Intermark is just not on our map. We used to go there occasionally when it was the Crown Princess and City Square Mall cos there was a magnificent claypot rice stall there and a couple of brilliant CD stores, but now nowhere as near so often since it got made over. We have been threatening to visit the Beast steakbar in the Intermark since it opened but have yet to do it. The other Intermark eateries we have tried have proven very good - the Hanare for Japanese, the Onsemiro for Korean, The Royal India for, er, Indian - though none have come in for a return visit.

I will aim to go back to Ohla on a less crowded occasion and park at the bar with their delightful aperitif and feed on the olives and tapas and wonderful pig. And get some photos. And see if Thick Face is still there. Hotel Car Parking was not unfair - standard rate after 7pm. Alternative is the LRT to Ampang Park and follow the overhead walkway across Tun Razak. Cheers!

48 Jalan Tun Razak 
Lot G-18 Ground Floor the Intermark
Kuala Lumpur 50400, Malaysia
Tel: +6012 663 2651


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