Havana Dining, NU Sentral

January 2, 2020

Havana Dining has serious Cuban credentials: This restaurant on the rooftop of NU Sentral launched on Nov. 16 this past year, commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Cuban capital's founding, in a ceremony officiated by the Cuban ambassador to Malaysia.

Its menu, however, takes equal inspiration from Mexico and other parts of South America, Spain and elsewhere in Europe. Start with the classic Cuban snack of mariquitas, green plantain chips served with salsa (RM45; for this price, these crisps could be crunchier and fresher).

Service is warm and eager to please, rolling out a braised oxtail fritter for a complimentary amuse-bouche. Some of Havana Dining's specialities were unavailable when we visited, including Cuban sandwiches, so we opted for citrus-marinated chicken fillet with pistachio-crusted chicken pate, roasted peppers, onion confit, avocado puree, and a textured roasted mushroom sauce - heaps of effort went into assembling this dish, though the portion might not quite suffice as a main course for RM88.

Cuban cigars are reconfigured into a meal of spring rolls packed with pulled beef and chilli jam - it's a fun, playful tidbit (RM38) that can be partnered with cocktails like the whiskey-based Havana Jack or the rum-loving Dirty Dream in Havana (RM35.90; if you're a table of adults, Havana's bartender can tell you the PG-13 stories behind these drinks' conception).

All in all, Cuban fare is so rare in our city (outside of, say, Changkat Bukit Bintang) that it's nice to welcome this restaurant to KL; but if only the kitchen here could lean in more strongly into its cuisine, we might indeed leave half of our heart in Havana.

Havana Dining Kuala Lumpur

Level 6, NU Sentral, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 019-278-8218