Kristin Cosgrove and Monica Tindall
Recently unveiling its new look after a major renovation, AQUA Restaurant and Bar has joined the ranks of exceptional dining choices in the Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur. Situated poolside with al fresco seating, AQUA is the perfect place to meet friends for lunch, to unwind after work or rest after a long day of shopping at KLCC. More than a year has passed since my last visit here and I am delighted by the transformation, the happy hour specials and the exceptional food.
Entering the doors to the restaurant/pool area, a wood fired pizza oven catches my eye, as do the copper finishes throughout the open concept kitchen. Pretty, handmade tiles decorate the kitchen counter, while an island bar around the corner entices diners to hang out and watch the bartenders in action. We settle in under the white sail-like overhang and delight in all the renovations. Blue accents hint at a Mediterranean vibe, upscale, but beach-like. I love the series of clear glass lanterns hovering over the island bar; they do their job of adding interest while keeping things airy and bright.
We happen to have arrived during Happy Hour, which runs weekdays from 4-7pm. Specials during this time include wines by the glass, either Sixty Drops Sauvignon Blanc or Luis Filipe Edwards Gran Reserva red, each priced at RM25. Select soft drinks and mocktails are available at RM18. Those who prefer to order from the regular menu during happy hours will receive a complimentary Pizza Margarita with purchases of a bottle of wine or five bottles of beer.
Though it was happy hour, the main menu proved to be too tempting, with an interesting lineup of original margarita and mojito concoctions including the Oriental Mojito (with Captain Morgan rum and gula malaka). It was a sweet success, only to be outdone by the Millionaire Mojito (RM68), which is topped with Moet & Chandon Champagne and made with top-of-the-line rum, Ron Zacapa Centenario Solera 23. Already feeling the relaxing warmth of a buzz creeping on, I make a mental note to return in order to try the Green Tea Mojito, made with green tea infused rum.
Spice lovers will love Aqua’s Tom Yum Margarita (RM40), which delivers a spicy snap in the back of the throat, which lingers after a long pull. I recommend having some food at the ready to help temper the heat, in our case the Mezzeh Platter (RM45) did the job nicely, and it’s a great dish to share with Arabic bread, babaganoush, muhummara and hummus. My favorite drink remains the non-alcoholic Moment of Zen (RM30), a mix of peach puree, pineapple, lime and ginger beer, a soothing, fruity blast in the city heat.
The Aqua food menu is largely focused on global food and tapas-style shared plates. Having not been here since the overhaul, we took the chance to order some of the house specialties from the menu, including the Shanghai Dumplings with Ginger-Cucumber-Teriyaki Relish (RM46). They were incredibly flavorful, especially with the relish, which I could have eaten alone as a salad.
The Aqua Roll (RM88) with spicy tuna and salmon makes for a beautiful plate, served inside out with the rice rolled in scallions before plating. The seaweed flavor hits a bit later, the crunchy bits of tempura curled into the center give a surprise crunch to an otherwise soft bite.
Feeling stuffed but wanting to try a bit of everything, we rallied to try a couple of desserts. At our host’s suggestion we opt for the Lemon Meringue Pie (RM28), a wise choice. The lemon was tart and sweet and the meringue perfectly set for melting pleasingly in the mouth.
Chocolate lovers should not miss the chance to try the Valrhona Chocolate Lava Cake (RM34). The rich flavor and spongy, almost gelatinous cake is incredible, and the lava in the middle is perfect to swirl with the house-made vanilla bean ice cream.
While we dined under the broad canopy, a light rain had fallen, cooling the area considerably and making the atmosphere even more enjoyable. We linger for a while, enjoying the atmosphere. As we go to leave, the outdoor lights begin to flicker on, adding an extra bit of magic as they sparkle in the puddles on the pool deck.
Reasons to visit: Happy Hour specials, newly renovated space with lovely green views of KLCC Park, a wide variety of dishes to choose from, great spot to socialize with colleagues and friends over the festive season.
Aqua Restaurant and Bar
Poolside, Mandarin Oriental
Kuala Lumpur City Center, 50088
Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
Hours: 12 noon – 10:30pm
+60 (3) 2380 8888