Monday, December 30, 2013

OUT OF WEST AFRICA

Tucked away in a discreet corner of Publika, few people realise this rather snazzy Cocobar & Kitchen Club Lounge adorned with billowy, satiny drapes and shiny patterned steel finish feature walls serve some of the tastiest West African fare in this part of the city.
Lolling comfortably on one of the sectional lounges, plush sofas and ottomans, we warmed up to the place with some of the house cocktails rustled up by the bartender (or mixologist as they are known nowadays).
Pink Pussy to add a blush to your face...a mixture of milk, grenadine, triple sec & vodka



Sexy Lesley to tickle your cocktail fancy
We were tickled pink by some of the concoctions' racy names such as Sexy Lesley and Pink Pussy but if you feel prudish asking for them, try more sedate-sounding Chocotini or Sea Breeze. Most of the cocktails  are priced from RM20 onwards. Cocobar also has an extensive range of shooters, wine, beer, liquor and champagne to boost your spirits up all night long.
Sea Breeze to ensure your evening at Cocobar remains smooth sailing
Should you feel peckish, keep hunger pangs at bay with light & easy finger food such as Hot & Spicy Mexican Chicken (RM15 - 6 pcs) - chicken wings coated in a piquantly tangy-fiery sauce. Think Tex-Mex buffalo wings with enticing hints of full-bodied sweetness. They are so scrumptious you'd pick the bones clean.
Fiery Mexican Chicken to set your tastebuds ablaze
The Coco's Spicy Gizzard (RM15) is another conversation stopper. It is amazing how a coarse, tongue-searing blend of chilli, garlic and African spices can transform such humble 'spare parts' into such sublime, mind-blowing morsels. A definite 'must try' if you're big on gizzard.
Guzzle on these delectable gizzards
Being the ignoramuses that we are, Cocobar owner Andy Daniel told us that chilli peppers, spices and herbs are prevalently used in West African cooking especially in Nigeria. Surprisingly, rice is a staple too besides maize (corn).
Rice and shine out of Western Africa
Proof of the pudding can be found in Cocobar's African Fried Rice Special (RM45) which is as different as chalk and cheese from our local version. You'd have to wait a good 45 minutes to an hour for it but trust me, the dish is well worth the wait. A platter of golden saffron yellow, every grain of the rice is suffused with deep-seated flavour. Apparently, its painstaking preparation requires the rice to be par-boiled and washed several times before the rest of the other ingredients are added. Studded with bits of sausage and mixed vegetable, the rice is complemented by fried plantain and a big chunk of fried fish on the side. Being the rice fiends that we are, we left no grain unfinished.
A real hooker of a fish to tantalise you
Like the proverbial saying not to judge a book by its cover, we learned not to judge a Grilled Whole Seabass with Plantain (RM85 with two glasses of red or white wine) by its plain appearance. Topped with some raw, fresh onion rings alongside green peli chilli sauce and mayonnaise, the fish reeled us in with its inherent sweetness. Marinated with chilli, onion and some stock before grilling, it made for very good eating when complemented by the creamy, sweat-inducing hot dips and nectar-sweet caramelised plantain.
Culture in a bowl...a collision of textures & flavours in the Egusi & Poundo combo
More adventurous eaters may like to sample Egusi with Poundo (RM35 & RM45), a typical West African soup. A far cry from the usual watery or creamy broths that we're familiar with, egusi is thick and grainy due to its base of ground melon seeds. Scented with spices and blended with smoked fish, boiled cow skin, spinach and chilli, it is eaten with poundo.
Traditionally made of pounded white yam (Dioscorea rotunda), the modern version simply calls for the mixing of processed yam powder with water to form rotund, dense loaves that looks like oversized Indian idli. On its own, poundo is completely tasteless with a heavy, starchy texture. You'd have to take bite-size portions of it and eat with the curd-like egusi, to let the egusi's melange of explosive accents to shine through.

Game for a real West African culinary adventure? Then Cocobar is a dark horse that's worth hedging your bets on.

COCO BAR &KITCHEN CLUB LOUNGE, Block D4-G4-9, Publika, Solaris Dutamas, Jalan Dutamas 1, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-6211 0708

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