Looking for a place to enjoy a good cigar is probably a matter of personal taste. Personally, i prefer quieter locales where my friends and i can talk over our cigars and a cup of good strong coffee, with a side order of iced water and lemon. I find the combination immediately pleasing and relaxing.

Over the last weekend, i visited Little Havana’s bistro outlet at Changkat Bukit Bintang – have heard so much about it in the past: how its a cool hangout for cigar lovers, its excellent latin music and dance floor upstairs. On some counts it delivere well, on others, i could propose improvements.

Little Havana’s exterior suggests that this used to be someone’s home – a corner lot at the top of a slight rise at Changkat Bukit Bintang (just 200 meters behind Hotel Istana, Kuala Lumpur). From the outside, it looks really inviting. Carefully placed lights and wide open gates greet guests – the choice tables are situated outside with mist-fans to keep everyone cool.

Unfortunately, the tables outside were full by the time i got there, about 9 pm on a Friday night, so i sat inside. Little Havana’s interior is sparsely, yet tastefully decorated. Rustic ceiling fans, old lamps, and a mellow yellow gold light bathed everything. A live band in the corner was playing some golden oldies – the environment was slightly loud, but fun and cheerful.

Food was ordered. It took a long time to arrive, and when it did, it wasn’t too tasteful, but hungry stomachs rarely complain. Had the beef sirloin steak, well done: was ok, but nothing too special. Although the service was slow, it was attentive: a waiter, Jamil, was quite animated and provided some polite conversation when i engaged him.

After dinner, i checked out the walk-in humidor at the back – for all the good things i’ve heard about them, i expected something really special. It was a let down to see a darkly lit, under-stocked humidor. There was absolutely nothing special about it, and even the prices of the 10-odd varieties on offer seemed awfully inflated. Its strange: the prices in the Little Havana at KLCC seemed far more reasonable, especially with the Malaysian Mega Sale in full swing. When i asked the young lady attending me, she said she knew nothing about the discount being offered at KLCC. Makes me wonder whether these two outlets only share a common name, and nothing else.

If you’re looking for experienced, well trained staff selling cigars, go to Hemingway’s instead. I was attended by a young lady who knew so little about cigars, i think she has not received extensive training on cigars. All she could say was that this cigar was “good” or “not good” without being able to tell me what she meant. Its almost as though she had been instructed to say those things about particular cigars; she obviously didn’t know why or what she was recommending to her customers. But she did have a nice figure and a short skirt – perhaps, that makes up for some of her shortcomings.

While the humidor was quite poor, i found the lounging area for the cigar smokers quite comfortable. There were 3 separate tables with their own sofas nearby the humidor. Each had a cute little candle-lit table lamp on them that lighted each small area – and while the previous dining area was a buzz of activity, this part of Little Havana was quiet and fairly well insulated from the bustle outside. I can imagine indulging in a cigar on these sofas, sipping a coffee – comfortable. On a Friday night, each of these 3 tables were empty – indicative of a lack of interest in Little Havana as a cigar divan?

The real action of the night took place upstairs where a full dance floor gyrated to the infectious beat of latin music. A bit of salsa, a bit of jazz – beautiful women and men held each other and twirled to the beat. It was fun watching them. Note to self: learn how to salsa in the near future. It looks like great fun.

Verdict: For sincere cigar lovers, Little Havana doesn’t hold too much promise. An dark, dusty, understocked humidor leaves much to be desired. Unknowledgeable sales staff spoils the experience further. But if you’re interested in a good place to enjoy some latin beats, and rub shoulders with people who do as well, then checking out Little Havana might be worth some time.