Sri Lankan food is surprisingly difficult to find in both Malaysia and Singapore, considering the siginificant number of Malaysians/Singaporeans who are of Sri Lankan descent (both Sinhalese and Tamil).
In that respect, A Li Yaa, a very authentic Sri Lankan restaurant in the drinking/dining precinct in Plaza Damansara, is a rare find indeed.
The decor of the restaurant in its new 4-month-old location (it was previously located in a bungalow on Lorong Dungun) was minimalist chic.
Our lunch today:
- A platter of different types potato cutlets: flavored respectively with fish, lamb, vegetarian and crab. These were good - hardly oily, with crisp breadcrumbed shells encasing moist potatoey filling;
- Chef Publis Pol Kiri Thiyal (Fish Sothi) - fish cooked in coconut,milk, lemongrass, shallots, garlic & curry leaves. The gravy's thinner than the Indian curries which I'm more used to, andvery sour from the use of tamarind pieces. The fish was fresh but slightly overcooked (as usually happens in Indian sub-continental cooking);
- Devilled chicken, flavoured with Sri Lankan spice mix, tomatoes, scallions, leeks and chillies. This dish was unusual - in the sense that it turned out slightly sweet-sour, instead of super-spicy as I'd expected. Very tasty nonetheless - tasting more "Chinese" than Sri Lankan;
- Jaffna Prawn Curry - lethally-red in appearance but not too spicy. The prawns were crisp and very fresh;
- Eggplant sambol - a bit dry for my taste, but the combination of cooked eggplant slices with raw onions, chillies and leeks complemented the curries very well;
- Egg appam - bowl-shaped, with pleasantly crisp edges, moist centres topped with perfectly-poached egg in the middle. The appams were richly delicious with the addition of coconut milk. I found these pancakes totally irresistible!
- Idiyappam (stringhoppers) with sambol - these vermicelli-like noodles were drier and coarser here than other versions I'd tried in South India, or even in Sri Lankan restaurants back in Singapore.
- Pittu (similar to Keralan/South Indian puttu - steamed funnel rice cake, with grated coconut), served with Pol Sambol (grated coconut, dried Maldive fish and chillis) - not very appetising by itself, but provided a perfect foil when eaten with rich curry gravies.
- Dessert was a sweet custard flavored with cinnamon and jaggery called Vattilappam.
Ceylonese tea provided a perfect ending to the meal. Sri Lankan cuisine seemed less complex than South Indian cooking (Tamil, Keralan, Karnatakan, Andhra), and its curries were more "one-dimensional", but it has a very distinct identity of its own.
A Li Yaa Restaurant & Bar
48G&M, Medan Setia 2
50490 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +6017-717 8700