Spanish food has always had a comforting vibe with dishes that are often reminiscent of meals enjoyed with family or a group of friends. Tapas, the small appetiser plates Spain is famous for, are for sharing after all.
Spanish Chef Jose Alonso is a firm believer of keeping that tradition going – even in a formal dining setting. “Fine dining is boring. It’s too quiet and you can’t complain when you don’t like something,” he quipped to a suitably amused group of reporters.
Alonso marries the warmth of Spanish cuisine with the whole concept of fine dining by maintaining the food’s ability to be shared – even on top of tables covered in fine linen. “The food is fine and made only from the best ingredients but the atmosphere is casual,” Alonso said, adding that for most gourmands these days, it’s not about what kind of food they can afford but the experience they get out of it.
As someone who’s at the helm of restaurants Binomio and El Tardeo, Alonso maintains a philosophy he picked up while working with top Spanish chefs Sergi Arola and the late Santi Santamaria – respect for the product.
“Nothing leaves my kitchen unless I’m willing to eat and pay for it,” he added.
Alonso is currently The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur’s visiting executive chef, along with his authentic Spanish creations that are now served up to one of the worlds’ most vicious food critics – Malaysians. Here are some stellar recommendations from the menu he whipped up.
Sandwich de Queso Fresco
Fresh cheese terrine bikini. Chef Alonso makes his own cheese for this ‘cheeky’ dish. It’s not just about creaminess for this sandwich as there’s a slight hint of sweetness to balance it out.
Berenjenas con Meil de Cana
Fried eggplant with honey that can convert even the staunchest anti-eggplant diner. Not too oily and with a light batter, it’s the perfect thing to munch on while waiting for the next course.
Croquetas de Pollo y Huevo
Chicken and boiled egg croquettes. Airy and light, this deep fried dish is not as guilt-inducing as any other croquette. The egg also gives a unique flavour without being too eggy.
Pulpo a La Gallega
Grilled Atlantic Octopus, Escalivada, Smoked Paprika. The octopus is slow cooked for up to 4 hours to achieve the tenderness of its meat and is served on soft, potato slices. This was so good but restrain yourself, you must. You definitely want to get to the dessert and these potatoes are filling!
Churros con Chocolate
The four course meal is a steal at RM150 (USD36.12). It also includes a welcome drink – either sangria or sparkling wine – and coffee or tea to end your meal.
The Ritz-Carlton is located at 168, Jalan Imbi 55100 Kuala Lumpur. Call +603-2142 8000 to make your reservation as the seats are filling up pretty quickly.
Review was written upon the hotel’s invitation for a media preview.
*A version of this article will also appear on The Binge.