|Dinesh Nair with his mom who's the chief cook at KariGuys|
Once upon a time back in 1951, Damodaran Nair began plying his Indian food from a push-cart at Pintu Padang in Raub, Pahang. The former cook for British settlers soon made good on his food business, expanding it to a wooden restaurant in Sempalit – Raub’s largest village.
|Do the sambal...with prawns|
To please his largely Chinese clientele, the savvy Domadaran tweaked his curry recipes, toning down the heat to suit their palate. The rest, as they say, is culinary history.
Today, Damodaran’s famed repertoire of dishes are capably replicated by his daughter-in-law at KariGuys, a modest Indian restaurant tucked away in a corner of the Bangsar suburb. Owned and run by brothers Dinesh and Ramesh Nair, they are now the proud custodians of their grandfather’s precious recipes. Walk in and you'd find Chinese-style marble and wood-topped tables, chairs and stools set against an exposed brick wall and further in, a chalkboard feature wall.
I’m a big fan of Indian rojak and the Rojak (RM7.50) at KariGuys is surprisingly up to scratch. One can easily down double servings of it in one sitting thanks to the irresistible combination of shredded yambean, beancurd puffs, fritters and hardboiled egg doused in that scrumptiously smooth, rich and well-spiced Sempalit peanut sauce.
That aptly paved the way for the restaurant’s signature dish of Kari Ayam Sempalit (RM6.50 per pc). The large chunks of chicken is lean and juicy while the mildly creamy but flavourful curry gravy sets the tastebuds tingling; drawing its robust nuances from dried chilli, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, garlic, ginger and curry leaves, enriched with coconut milk.
Likewise, the Sempalit Fried Chicken (RM6.50 per pc) is ‘to-die-for’. Marinated in a special house blend of eight spices for 12 hours, we can’t get enough of the super-crisp skin (look Ma, no floury batter!) and moist, tender meat.
Nasi lemak fans should try the sublime Nasi Lemak (RM9.50) here which comes with a choice of chicken curry or fried chicken.
If you prefer white rice, the Sempalit Mutton Peratal (RM8.50) and Prawn Sambal (RM8.50) are great accompaniments to spice up your meal. The former uses a signature blend of 11 different spices to cook that piquant dish while roasted and pounded dried chilli lends the latter its toasty chilli accent.
Those who have friends in tow will do well to sample the Fish Head Curry (RM65 – red snapper, RM75 salmon). Bentong’s famous taufu pok (beancurd puffs), ladies fingers, tomato and brinjal wedges lend extra substance to this mildly hot offering.
Diners can complete their meal with vegetable dishes (RM6 per portion) available. Take your pick from spiced brinjal, stir-fried cabbage or French beans with carrots or ladies fingers.
While the Sempalit Curry noodles (RM8) doesn’t float my boat, it’s a viable option for those who eschew rice.
For dessert, try the Sugee Cake – a luscious, buttery slice of sublime heaven to wrap up your meal on a subtly sweet note.
Set lunch and dinner from RM12.75 onwards per person comprising 1 main course and 2 vegetable dishes with rice are also served daily. The restaurant also offers catering services.
Check out KARI GUYS at 24, Lorong Ara Kiri 2, Lucky Garden, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-2201 9388; 017-812 6595 from 11.45am-8.30pm daily.