Though i’ve never been to Havana, I somehow want to believe there’s a place there somewhere that at least resembles Qba, the Latin bar and restaurant at the Westin on Jalan Bukit Bintang. From the cigar lounge anteroom with its curvaceous wine bar to the massive angel carved from a single tree trunk hanging in the atrium, there’s a definite Cuban vibe here. Or least a good facsimile of what I figure one would feel like. Once you’re tucked away and beguiled by Qba’s charms, it certainly doesn’t feel like you’re in Malaysia – Qba’s got a smooth, cool ambiance that’s a great fusion of Latin funk and island chill. In short, Cuba.
Qba actual comprises four pretty different spaces in one venue. The aforementioned cigar lounge and wine bar can be directly accessed from the hotel lobby (just down the stairs).The dining area and grill is further in, while the Island Bar and an outdoor courtyard for drinking and dining is downstairs. It’s an eclectic, unusual space, and Qba puts it to pretty good use by setting it up to take best advantage of each of the different areas.
Qba is a great choice for an after-work tipple, but we wanted to grab dinner here, too, especially in the run-up to the much-anticipated Malaysian International Gourmet Festival (MIGF) that will be in full swing through October. Chef Pearl Woo and her team have come up with some special treats for the occasion, and also managed to impress with some old standbys, too. After savouring the starter soup, a tangy and zesty tomato tortilla soup with bits of avocado, guajillo chili peppers, and fried strips of tortilla, we proceeded to the mains. Particular favourites were the delicious seared Petuna ocean trout dish and the muchpraised Qba signature steak tasting plate, dubbed the Shorthorn. This platter features three outstanding 120-gram cuts of beef, grilled to perfection, and delivered hot. Comprising a trio of excellent steaks, we found it hard to choose a favourite, but the Certified Australian Angus Beef ribeye was surely a strong contender.
After we finished our meal, we had the treat of getting to sample some of the tapasstyle offerings that will be available during the MIGF in October. One of the standouts was basically a deconstructed taco, featuring thin, crispy tortilla triangles stacked with layers of chili con carne and all the expected trimmings. Plump shrimp, sautéed in a spicy tomato sauce were also quite a hit. The full MIGF menu will feature these and other tapas as the starter to a marvellous multi-course meal.
In truth, Qba is a bit of a hidden gem in KL. As it’s ensconced inside the elegant Westin Hotel, passersby on the always-busy Jalan Bukit Bintang may walk by unawares. But this Latin bistro sources some of the best beef and fresh fish available, and it’s flown in to KL for them regularly and rapidly. Any chef will tell you quality ingredients are crucial to a quality dish, and here, Qba scores. Two reasons to put Qba on your list of restaurants to visit: some of KL’s best steaks and the Malaysian International Gourmet Festival. Nip in, order up a caipirinha, chill to the smooth Latin jazz, nosh on some tasty food from the delightful Chef Pearl, and maybe – just for a moment – feel you’re in 1930s Havana. By Alexander Lim
Qba Latin Grill and Bar
Westin Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tel: +603 2773 8338
Open Monday – Saturday 6:30pm – 10:30pm. Bar from 5pm until late. Diners receive two hours of complimentary parking at the hotel
Mains and Tasting Platters: RM50-250++
MIGF Full Menu: RM190++
Source: The Expat October 2013
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