Thursday, September 21, 2017

Malaysia truly Latin America at La Boca

The ringing endorsement by Time Out Malaysia clinched it: The magazine’s 2013-14 guide to restaurants, bars and clubs had rated the margaritas at La Boca Latino Bar and Restaurant among the best in Kualar Lumpur. My wife and I would be dining there for lunch.

Latin American authenticity at Malaysia’s La Boca restaurant. Photo: Douglas LongLatin American authenticity at Malaysia’s La Boca restaurant. Photo: Douglas Long

Yes, margaritas at lunchtime: There was plenty of shopping on the agenda during our visit to KL, and La Boca’s prime location just outside Pavilion KL megamall made it the perfect afternoon antidote for the inevitable retail overload.

The restaurant was small but inviting: The walls were decorated with vibrant paintings meant to evoke the dynamism of Latin America, and even the menu was a feast for the eyes, combining colourful graphics with helpful descriptions of the food and drinks.

Eight pages of the menu were dedicated to beverages, alcoholic and otherwise. As expected, we went with frozen margaritas (28 ringgit; US$9.50). They were as excellent as advertised, and the flawless blend of tequila, triple sec, lemon juice and ice was perfectly suited to the sweltering tropical afternoon. From the first sip, I had no doubt that in-house mixologist Felipe meant it when he said he was dedicated to creating drinks with “heart and soul”.

Food choices included tapas, salads and Argentinean-style barbecue, as well as selections from Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Cuba and Uruguay.

I opted for a taste of Mexico in the form of beef fajitas (34 ringgit), served on a sizzling skillet with tortilla bread, guacamole, sour cream and salsa on the side. There were enough ingredients to fill four tortillas. The succulent meat had been marinated with coriander, paprika and cumin, and seared with onions and peppers. I savoured every blissful bite.

My wife went for the Brazilian fare, ordering the seafood moqueca (46 ringgit) – salmon and prawn in creamy coconut sauce topped with toasted coconut flakes, and served with steamed jasmine rice and honey-glazed butternut squash.

Moqueca is traditionally cooked as a whitefish stew, but La Boca has re-envisioned the dish as a Southeast Asian-style curry. My wife loved the rich, garlicky flavor, and especially enjoyed the combination of fresh grilled prawn and thinly sliced salmon.

The La Boca experience left us both extremely satisfied. While the bill was substantially higher than we would normally pay for lunch in Yangon, we were willing to splurge on well-prepared Latin American food, which remains a relatively marginal cuisine in Myanmar.

However, the value-for-money category took a small hit due to the fact that chips and salsa were not served gratis along with the mains. They had to be ordered as a side dish, at the hefty price of 9 ringgit for a few chips and minuscule bowl of sals

La Boca Latino Bar and Restaurant

C3.10.03 Pavilion KL, 168 Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Food: 9

Drink: 10

Service: 8

Atmosphere: 9

X-factor: 9

Value for money: 7

Total Score: 8.6/10

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