THE best way to get a taste of Spanish cuisine is to go in search of a restaurant up in the highlands.
It was at La Fiesta in Genting Highlands that I had the pleasure of tucking into Spanish jamon Iberico, some of the finest cured meat I have ever tasted.
I tried La Fiesta’s Mix Iberico Cuts, which, quite frankly, changed the way I enjoy cured meat.
The platter featured four different cold cuts, including the Chorizo Iberico (paprika sausage), Salchichon Iberico (peppercorn sausage), Lomo Iberico (pork loin) and jamon Iberico.
The three cuts, save for the jamon, were sliced to an exacting thickness of about 3mm, which is the recommended thickness to truly savour the meat without overwhelming your palate.
The jamon was my favourite of the lot; tender and savoury, its piquant taste lingering long enough for you to pair it with another bite of bread.
Something that the La Fiesta restaurant manager Eduardo Ortega Ramos said about the meat remains etched in my memory, “It is said they are not cooked by the hand of men, but by the hand of God,” and this made me savour the dishes even more.
He said the meat, from the free-range black Iberico pig that feeds freely on acorns, was some of the finest in the world.
Aged at least three years, jamon Iberico is considered a delicacy outside of Spain.
Later, I tried an exquisite pork shoulder dish that was marinated in Vermouth for at least 48 hours.
The flavoursome meat was seared just a little on the sides for a touch of crispness and it was soft all the way into the centre as you chew.
Paella is quintessentially Spanish and I was not disappointed with the pork and chicken variant here.
La Fiesta chef Arthur Sydney Fernandez said the restaurant’s paella dishes had gained popularity at the fairly new restaurant.
This is because the rice absorbs the flavour of the stock used. Fernandez also said the key to a good paella was that each grain should not be cooked all the way through, similar to the Italian al dente method of making pasta.
The paella comes across as a home-cooked meal and is obviously a comfort food relished by the Spanish.
The warm rice also had the taste of tomatoes and peppers, for balance, while some lemon juice gives it a refreshing lift.
For the sweet ending, the classic Crema Catalana (creme brulee) can do no wrong.
The thin layer of flambeed sugar breaks into a creamy custard which has a tinge of citrus and cinnamon, and I enjoyed it because it was not too sweet.
La Fiesta also offers both gourmet and rustic paella selections ranging from Canadian lobster to squid ink as well as familiar tapas such as calamares a la Andaluza (deep-fried calamari with garlic mayonnaise dip) and patatas bravas (potatoes in spiced tomato sauce).
Then there are regional delicacies such as the matrimonio (a combination of anchovies in vinegar and salted brown anchovies on bread), pan tumaca (a thick olive oil-infused paste of fresh tomatoes on toasted bread) and salmorejo, an Andalusian tomato puree soup.
La Fiesta also brings with it a variety of Spanish cheeses and choice selections of cava.
LA FIESTA, Level 1, SkyAvenue, Resorts World Genting, Genting Highlands, Pahang. (Tel: 03-6101 2611) Business hours: 11am to midnight (Saturday and Sunday), 11am to 10pm (public holidays), noon to midnight (public holiday eve), noon to 10pm (Monday to Thursday).
This is the writer’s personal observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro.