Archives: Malaysia International Gourmet Festival 2015 (01-31 October 2015)

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A Li Yaa Island Restaurant & Bar
The Elephant Leads The Way
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'Aliyaa' means elephant in Singhalese - the namesake and mascot of the restaurant

All but tucked away among a row of shop houses in Bukit Damansara lies one of Malaysia’s rare Sri Lankan eateries, the humble and homely Aliyaa Restaurant & Bar. Few and far between are the country wide locations where one can relish the rainbow of spices found in this vibrant cuisine. Executive Chef Yogeshwaran Selladoreh and his team have amassed a reputation for offering nothing but the most authentic examples and it was here that a lucky group of diners recently had the pleasure of tucking into the lush fare at the eighth MIGF publicity dinner this year.

Jeffrey Perera, Sooria Perera, Kee Hua Chee, See Toh Chan and Goh Kheng Peow

Sri Lanka is known as the nation of smiling people, who some say are the friendliest in the world – a notion immediately apparent upon arrival at the restaurant. Diners arrived to a warm-hearted reception by beaming staff who ushered them past the guarding stone elephants on the balustrade and into the snazzy interior. The word ‘aliyaa’ means elephant in Singhalese, a sacred animal found in most Sri Lankan temples, and the mascot of the restaurant. These were in plain sight all throughout the whitewashed inner quarters of the establishment.

Aliyaa boasts a minimalist interior with eye catching photographs and artwork on the walls

King of Tree cocktails – a velvety concoction that coats the mouth in a rich blend of coconut, malibu and dark rum – were imbibed on the upper floor of the restaurant, complemented by curry-leaf roasted cashew nuts and spicy eggplant on toasted brioche. Striking Cuban inspired photographs adorn the walls, taken by Aliyaa owner Abbi Kanthasamy – an avid shutterbug who rotates his stills every few months.

 The King Of Tree cocktail Spicy Eggplant on Toasted Brioche

“Every restaurant has its place in the Festival,” said MIGF Organising Chairman Dato’ Steve Day in his words of welcome, “and we’re very proud to have Aliyaa with us this year.” Festival Royal Patron Tunku Naquiyuddin ibni Tuanku Ja’afar and wife Tunku Nurul Hayati were present, as well as designer Datuk Tom Abang Saufi, Festival Advisory Committee members Datin Winnie Sophia Low and Jeffrey Perrera among others. It was a group that knew each other intimately well and so Dato’ Steve did away with his customary introductions.

Dr Neil Ranaweera, Tunku Nurul Hayati Tunku Bahador and Datuk Tom Abang Saufi

Following introductions of the front of house team, chefs and Restaurant Manager Sangeeth Sivagnanam, guests made their way downstairs and took their places at the tables. An intoxicating aroma filled the dining room, tickling the palates of the hungry diners, who sat eagerly awaiting the spice laden feast ahead.

Aliyaa General Manager Sangeeth Sivagnanam and the red hot kitchen team

From fish cutlets and lamb roti rolls, beloved fried string hoppers with seasoned Sri Lankan spices (flown in especially from the country), tender mutton paal poriyal in devil aromatic spices, down to meaty tiger prawn curry with lumprais, the spread was a study in true blue Sri Lankan cuisine, each guest zealously tucking into the dishes before them.

 Green Salad  Tiger Prawn Sothi

Brinjal Moju

The highlight of the evening came in the form of the famous Sri Lankan mud and curry crabs, served with a myriad of colourful chutneys. Chef Yogeshwaran emerged from the kitchen with one of the impressive crabs in hand, circling the group and letting them get up close and personal with the crustacean. With bibs in place, guests devoured the tasty seafood delights, the conversation audibly quietening as they munched away.

Iman Lough, Dato' Steve Day, Tunku Nurul Hayati, Tunku Dato' Johanez Tunku Annuar

Datin Winnie Sophia Low, Tunku Naquiyuddin and Datuk Tom ready to tuck into the stone crabs with bibs in place

Chef showing off the stone crabs as Tunku Naquiyuddin and Datuk Tom Abang snap away

Sri Lankan Curry Crab

Jeremy Oliver, a regular at MIGF dinners for many years, was thoroughly impressed by the spread of dishes, mentioning that, “It’s been a wonderful introduction to Sri Lankan food…I’m standing here with my bib which is here to protect my clothing from unbelievable crab curry. Great food, great flavours and great variety of cuisine tonight.” Datuk Saufi, who waxed lyrical on the authenticity of the dishes served, was especially taken by the string hoppers and appam, two tasty dishes very close to her heart.

 Egg Appam  String Hopper Kothu Seafood with Sambal


Tunku Naquiyuddin giving his closing words as Dato' Steve stands by

It was Tunku Naquiyddin, however, that had the final say, addressing the party and the entire team at the end of the night. “An elephant never forgets, and I will certainly never forget the experience we’ve had here tonight,” he said, a sentiment echoed by all the diners who departed with fond memories of a spice laden dining experience.

Check out the video below and hear what they said about Aliyaa Island and Bar.