My first encounter with Sri Lankan cuisine was at the Hilton Colombo which serves the widest selection curries, sambars and delicious delicacies native to this Pearl of the Indian Ocean. Throughout my week-long stay, almost every day saw a different array of tempting dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner that I fell deeper in love with every bite I took.
Over an indulgent dinner at A LI YAA, I rediscovered those bright and aromatic flavours when the Seafood Kothu (RM28) hit the palate. A comfort food staple among Sri Lankans and an ingenious way of using leftover string hoppers, the fine spaghetti-like string hoppers made from unprocessed rice flour are fried with prawn, fish and vegetables.
Chef Yogeshwaran Selladoreh helms the kitchen team while manager Sangeethan Sivagnanam leads attentive and dedicated waiters in ensuring diners are well looked after.
Aromatically spiced, the half round pieces of Fish Cutlets (RM16) were wickedly scrumptious as was the Sri Lankan Sambal Set (RM12). Served with a plate of crunchy papadums, the quartet of seeni (spiced sliced onion), katta (ground chilli and spice paste with salted Maldivian fish), pol (grated coconut) and karupillay (curry leaves) was so addictive.
The Lamb Rotti Rolls (RM16) − spice-marinated lamb and onions wrapped up in bread and deep-fried to seal in their piquant flavours also got us raving and hankering for more.
Our foray along the island’s spice route saw us savouring Chicken Peratal (RM18), marinated chicken & potato in a heady blend of traditional Sri Lankan spices. The delectable chunks were a match made in heaven with Plain Doosara Rotti (RM8), warm grilled flatbreads served with grated coconut, onion and mild chilli.
Just when we though it couldn’t get any better, along came Mutton Paal Poriyal (RM26), incredibly tender lamb in devilish aromatic spices that even Hassan from that Hundred Foot Journey flick would approve of. If you opt for the Colombo Combo (RM32), you’d be replete as it comes served with rice, gravy, mixed vegetable of the day and seeni sambal.
I don’t have the patience to fuss over Sri Lankan Crab Curry (RM13.90 per 100gm) but hubs obviously loves it so I reckon the darkish curry is strictly for die-hard crabby fans.
Brinjal Moju (RM12), deep-fried sliced brinjal with spices and a dash of vinegar is simply moreish and one of the better brinjal dishes I had in a while.
Touted as Sri Lankan’s version of nasi lemak, the Chicken Lumprais (RM24) is eclipsed by the earlier parade and tastes ho-hum. The baked rice wrapped in banana leaf is accompanied by your choice of a devilled dish from the menu, a sunny-side egg with roasted cashews and the day’s veg.
|Comfort food for Sri Lankans|
As a country with the longest known history and a culture that encompasses the richness of language, religion and food, Sri Lanka's culinary essence is what A LI YAA brings to the table. A LI YAA which means elephant boasts a homely interior of rough-hewn and solid concrete bars coupled with raw, tactile walls and mellow lighting. The paintings and creative photographic works of Malaysia’s homegrown artists depicting the Sutra Dance Theatre’s artistic director Dato’ Ramli Ibrahim. are displayed for sale with proceeds going to the ‘Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage’ in Sri Lanka.
|Colombo combo or go solo with the Mutton Paal Poriyal|
My preference slants towards the mildly spiced, coconut milk-based creamy Prawn Sothi (RM28) scented with lemongrass, garlic, shallots and curry leaves and the robust Fish Curry (RM26); two dishes that evoked wonderful memories of my sojourn.
|Sunshiny cheer in the form of an egg added to your sweet appam (above) or |
sprinkled with jaggery (bottom)
Things look up again with some Sweet Appams (4pcs for RM20) dusted with jaggery (unrefined palm sap sugar). You can also ask for plain, egg or sweet coconut milk versions. Even better is Vatilaapam (RM8) – a rich pudding of coconut milk, brown palm sugar, eggs and cinnamon to leave you on a sublime sugary high.
|Sweet surrender...the custard-soft Vatilaapam|
A LI YAA Island Restaurant & Bar, 48 G & M, Jalan Medan Setia 2, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: +603-2092 5378