I love my spicy food, I do. Indian, Malay, Portuguese, Nyonya cuisines – they all hold a special appeal for me. As for Sri Lankan cuisine, well, I haven’t had much exposure on that so when I was invited to check out A Li Yaa Island Restaurant & Bar, I wasted no time in saying “yes!”.
Located in Damansara Heights along that busy F&B stretch, A Li Yaa has been quietly making a name for itself. Sri Lanka is well-known for its spices and while some of its dishes may be influenced by southern India, Sri Lanka’s cuisine still pretty much has its own unique style and a rich diversity of cooking techniques. A Li Yaa’s cosy intimate interior is welcoming, especially after a long working day. As I made myself comfortable and scrutinised their menu, I could feel my hunger escalating, thanks to the lovely spicy aromas floating in from the kitchen.
While waiting for our dishes to be prepared, I had a taste of A Li Yaa’s famous sambols. I got to indulge in 4 types – seeni, katta, pol and karupillay. Seeni was the mildest as it’s made from sweet caramelised onions. Katta is similar to our sambal belacan and Maldavian fish is used in its preparation. I like the pol sambol best. Made with coconut, it has the right amount of spiciness and sourness. Karupillay, which is made with curry leaves, has its own unique characteristic. All the sambols went very well with the plate of crunchy pappadam.
With our palate nicely teased by the sambols, we waited for the rest of the dishes. Dinner started off splendidly with Lamb Rotti Rolls (RM16) where spicy marinated minced lamb and onions were wrapped in a rotti roll and dry-fried on a hot pan to seal in the spicy goodness.
Likewise, the Fish Cutlets (RM16) were well received. Sized like golf balls, the halved cutlets revealed a combination of mashed fish, onions and chillies, encased in batter and fried to a golden brown hue.
When in A Li Yaa, please order their Kothus. They are excellent. Known more popularly as “puttu mayam”, kothu are spaghetti-like strings of unprocessed rice flour dough squeezed through a sieve onto trays and then steamed. Seafood Kothu (RM28) was our choice – it’s almost like fried meehoon, just several notches up the taste bar!
I have never been to Sri Lanka but I’ve been told that their Lumprais is like a national snack at any time of the day. Here in A Li Yaa, their lumprais is oven- baked rice wrapped in banana leaf, served with devil curry of your choice, fried egg with roasted cashew nuts and vegetables. We had the Chicken Lumprais (RM24).
Upon peeling open the banana leaves, I was surprised to see that it actually looked like a packet of wet fried rice. I was told it’s a bit different from what’s done in Sri Lanka. The lumprais was quite tasty, despite its “different” appearance.
Plain Doosara Rotti
In A Li Yaa, you can have either plain rice or Plain Doosara Rotti (RM8) – pan grilled flat bread with grated coconut, onions and mild chillies to go with the curries. I love the rotti and can’t stop dipping it into the Jaffna Prawn Curry (RM28), Chicken Peratal (RM18), my favourite Mutton Paal Poriyal (RM26) and their Fish Curry (RM26). These curries are quite different from the usual Indian curries – they each have their own depth of character and flavour profile thanks to the myriad Sri Lankan spices used. The milder Jaffna Prawn Curry is more yellow than the usual orangey-red curry.
Jaffna Prawn Curry
The Mutton Paal Poriyal was tender and absolutely scrumptious as the meat was infused well with the repertoire of traditional Sri Lankan spices used.
Mutton Paal Poriyal
Brinjal Moju (RM12) – deep fried brinjals with spices and dash of vinegar… these were really good, to go with the plain kothu.
If you are dining alone (that’s something that should never be done, especially in A Li Yaa!) you can opt for a Colombo Combo Paal Poriyal set meal (RM32) that comes complete with rice, mutton, vegetables and gravy. An almost complete meal by itself!
Colombo Combo Paal Poriyal set
After all the spicy stuff, my palate needed a sweet reprieve and the Sweet Apam (4 for RM20) did an awesome job. I love apams, with their soft spongy centres and thin crunchy sides. In A Li Yaa, besides the sweet apam, you can also have them plain, with egg, with sugar, with coconut and even with brandy and Grand Marnier!
Their Vatilaapam (RM8) – rich caramel pudding made from coconut milk, palm sugar, eggs with dash of cinnamon is another dessert option. Love the eggy pudding – such comfort food for me as I used to eat a similar pudding during my childhood!
A LI YAA Island Restaurant & Bar
48 G & M, Jalan Medan Setia 2
50490 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603-2092 5378
Business Hours: Mon – Sun: 12.00 pm – 11.00 pm