Casa Latina @ Persiaran Ampang

August 22, 2017

Arepas & empanadas, chupe & ceviche, moqueca & milanesa: Casa Latina, a new Venezuelan-run restaurant, champions the lively flavours of Caracas, Brasilia & Bogota in a calm corner of KL; it's the second South American eatery to open in our city this year, three months after El Maiz, in a welcome awakening of a richly nuanced collection of cuisines in Malaysia.

For the complete Casa Latina experience, it's currently best to come on weekends, when chef-founder Tamara & her team roll out an extensive menu that hopscotches from Brazilian-style fish cooked with coconut cream & annatto red oil to Peruvian prawn-&-potato soup.

From Mondays through Fridays, the selection is comparatively compact, though there's still more than enough for a table to share. We'll never say no to arepas - Casa Latina serves no fewer than five varieties of these griddled corn flour patties, plumply stuffed with, say, chicken, avocados, mayo & green pea sprouts, for a sink-your-teeth-into-this substitute for regular ol' sandwiches (RM12). Empanadas come in a choice of wheat flour, green plantain dough, corn meal dough or tapioca dough; each piece of pastry is packed with possibilities like beef, peas & olives, conveying a heady punch of savouriness, harmonised with kitchen-made salsas & sauces (RM6 each).

The cooking channels honest, home-made sensibilities, not intimidatingly unfamiliar for Malaysian taste buds. Arroz chaufa is fried rice that illuminates the influence of Chinese immigrants on Peruvian cuisine; it's a safe, inoffensive recipe (RM20). For something that blends Venezuelan and Malaysian inspirations, check out Casa Latina's take on asado negro, featuring beef caramelised with chocolate sauce & gula Melaka, striking up deep, dark dimensions of flavour (RM28).

There's a second component to Casa Latina, which also calls itself a 'cacao lab.' The venue takes pride in its own hot chocolate & mousse, both smooth & sultry, robust & pure, as well as pralines made in collaboration with Malaysian brand Chocolate Concierge, relying mainly on cacao from Malaysia, South America & Africa, with fillings that span South American guavas, dates & cheese, coconut, passion fruit & more; if you have chocolate-loving friends, take them here. And if you linger long enough, Casa Latina's amiable New Zealand-born manager Nic might bring you a sharply balanced shot of ginger-infused espresso that could be the most memorable coffee you'll try this month. There's a nice confluence of cultures here that makes Casa Latina a restaurant to bookmark.

Casa Latina
20, Persiaran Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. Open Sun-Thurs, 9am-9pm; Fri-Sat, 9am-1030pm. Tel: 03-4265-2332

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