July 21, 2014

Aliyaa Island Restaurant & Bar, Bukit Damansara: Bodacious Sri Lanka Flavours and Healthy Heart Menu!

Great Flavours for Heart & Soul!

Making its ode to Sri Lanka cuisine, Aliyaa Island Restaurant & Bar has been serving up fine dining Sri Lanka menu to Klang Valley diners since a good few years back. Aliyaa, which means elephant in Singhalese, is located at the quiet neighborhood of Bukit Damansara. The restaurant cum bar honed into the world of spices where balancing them is an art by itself. Serving up authentic Sri Lanka dishes, many of its spices and ingredients are imported from Sri Lanka itself to ensure authentic flavours are achieved consistently.

Though one of the reasons we were here was to savor their Heart-Healthy Eating Menu approved by the National Heart Foundation, we were also impressed with a glimpse of what their regular Sri Lankan menu has to offer.

Opened for lunch and dinner, Aliyaa provides a lovely quiet ambience perfect for personal or business meals. The two-storey restaurant offers regular dining or private dining. It’s back to minimalist for the interior with elegant dark furniture and pristine white table settings. White walls are brighten up with gorgeous photographs and artistic paintings. Both floors has a long bar set up with many drinks to quench one’s thirst. Aliyaa even boasts to have one of the largest single malt whiskey collections in Malaysia for those hardcore whiskey fans. Though parking may slightly be harder during the day, it is pretty much easy in the evening.

Sri Lankan cuisine is very complex in flavours. Some say it’s due to the national geographic influences while others say it’s due to historical trade from its previous colonial powers that sums up the cuisine. Similar to the Indian cuisine in some ways, Sri Lankan cuisine is more distinctive in its own unique way. Using their own blend of spices coupled with the country’s ingredients like the famous Sri Lankan crab, Aliyaa Island Restaurant and Bar is up to showing what the nation’s cuisine is all about.

As mentioned earlier, the drink list is nothing short but exciting! We thoroughly enjoyed our Jaffna Bling Bling, Mojito and Lychee with Asam Boi. I adored the Jaffna Bling Bling made from Baileys, chocolate vodka and a series of other ingredients. Utterly creamy and silky, the cocktail is so deliciously inviting with a kick! The Mojito is fresh, minty and tangy with beautiful spiked up notes.

Our evening kicked off with the Sri Lankan Sambal Set which consisted of four sambals of Katta Sambal, Seeni Sambal, Pol Sambal and Karupillay Sambal served up with a bowl of crisp Pappadums. Beautifully presented, I was attracted to the gorgeous colors of the sambals at sight. All of these make excellent starters or to be savored with any Sri Lankan dishes of rice, noodles, appam and roti.

We were told to start off with the mildest one of Seeni Sambal, a lightly sweet caramelized onion relish that has hints of heat and tangy notes. The softness of the onions goes well with the crisp pappadums. Pol Sambal is very popular and is made from grated fresh coconut, dried chilies, onions, lime juice and curry leaves. The light orange hue denotes the stained coconut with the chilies. I like the freshness of the coconut flavours spiced up with chili together with citrus, sweet onions and aromatic curry leaves.

Karupillay Sambal showcases fresh curry leaves blended with chilies and spice. This one has a slight raw note but its hardly an obstacle as the blend of chilies is nothing short but spectacular in flavours. Fully aromatic with lovely heat, I kept on munching my pappadums with this one. We were warned that Katta Sambal is the spiciest among the four and told that the unique ingredient in this one is Maldive fish. Aliyaa imports the Maldive fish as it is only available in Sri Lanka or Maldives. It is basically a cured dried tuna. The Katta Sambal is super spicy and gets your adrenalin going after a few bites. I was practically hooked on this one.

The Sri Lanka Sambal set is so good, one may need to order more pappadums… just like we did!

Before we head on to the regular menu, Aliyaa is proud to offer their Heart-Healthy Eating menu that is now available at the restaurant. The menu showcases dishes whipped up with minimal or no oil and coconut milk. There are few main dishes to be savored with side dishes and vegetable dishes.

We tasted the Fish Curry where chunks of firm fish are cooked in a rich and tangy curry laced with fresh milk. It is practically oil free as the curry doesn’t have that usual layer of oil as most does. What the chef did was cooked the curry with lots of onions, spices and curry leaves for flavours.

To go with the main dishes, we had Vella Muddai, egg white hash cooked in very minimal olive oil and Bendi Oli, sliced ladies finger sautéed with onions,tomatoes and mustard seeds. It’s a great idea to savor egg white as it takes up the flavours of the Fish Curry and Bendi Oli beautifully.

Other dishes on the Heart-Healthy Eating menu include Chicken Curry, Chicken Salad, Fish Sothi, Red String Hopper, Puddu, Vendhyakulambu and Vallarai Sambal.

We continued our dinner with the regular menu. The Fish Cutlet arrived in golf balls size of golden crumbed cutlets beautifully halved and served with chili sauce. Perfectly crispy on the crumbs with soft creamy fish and potato filling, these have a light note of spices too. The Fish cutlet is very enjoyable as it is or with rice.

The next dish evoked much controversy. Lumprais or Lamprais, according to Wikipedia, is rice cooked in stock, dressed in special curry, accompanied by ‘frikkadels’ and wrapped in banana leaf to be baked in the oven. The rice and curry with other accompaniments are placed separately and not mixed up while being baked.

The version here at Aliyaa is slightly different. The cooked rice is mixed up with the curry of your choice from chicken, lamb, beef, seafood and vegetarian together with onions, egg, chili, cashew nuts and spices before being baked in banana leave. We had the Lumprais with Chicken. When the platter arrived, it sure smelled heavenly. The banana leaf aroma mingled with the scent of spices and exuded a very delicious aroma.

When we opened the package, we saw the rice all nicely mixed up with lots of ingredients. My first taste of the dish had me comparing this to our local nasi goreng. Though the rice is a bit wet from the drenched of the curry sauce, the flavours are beautifully comforting. The moist rice is nicely loaded with a well balance spice and heat combination. There are lots of textures in the dish from the chicken to the sweet onions, chili, cashew nuts and vegetables.

Ok, maybe it’s not the original looking Lumprais but it sure taste really good in my books… our table enjoyed this dish a lot!

We also had the String Hopper Kothu Chicken. Kothu is a famous street dish in Sri Lanka. Roti is chopped up with vegetables, egg, meat and spices on a flat heated iron pan using two blunt metal blades. String Hopper Kothu was born out of the need to use up left over string hoppers or idlyappam, thin strands of noodle like made from unprocessed brown rice.

It tasted almost like our rice vermicelli noodles but softer. Here it is literally chopped up with lots of onions, carrots, scallions and chicken. This one also has a light spice note and it quite mild in flavours with a slight tang. The Kothu corner has roti or string hoppers and guests can select from chicken, beef, lamb or vegetarian.

Aliyaa’s signature arrived in the form of Sri Lankan crab at RM13.90 per 100gm. Sri Lankan crabs are known for their size and sweet succulent meat. Here, these crustacean beauties are about 800gm to 1kg each. It is recommended to call in advance just to make sure to reserve these luscious beauties. One can have these prepared in five sauces from Colombo and Jaffna to Sweet & Sour, Black Pepper and Devilled.

We opted for the Sri Lankan Colombo Style Crab with the heat level of what local Sri Lankan would savor. The crab is indeed pretty large and is smothered in a dark rich brown sauce laced with loads of spices and chili heat. In fact, we were told that this secret recipe involves more than 20 spices.

A taste of rich robust sauce will hit your senses like a ten-ton truck. It’s loaded, fully loaded with bold spice flavours. Although the sauce is very spicy in heat terms, I must confessed that the sauce kind of mellow a bit after a while of consumption. The flavours actually grew on my tastebud and I can now taste a richness of the spice sauce. We were also told that the heat of the dish is derived from lots of cinnamon roasted and grounded with rice and coconut. I certainly learned a new thing today and that is that cinnamon is actually spicy in heat.

By the time I am done with the succulent sweet crab and spicy sauce, I did felt a sense of great satisfaction with the bold flavours of the Colombo Style Crab.

Just like our Chinese crab with bread, we also had Plain Doosara Roti (Pol Roti) where the pan grilled flat bread is served up with Pol Sambal. We used the flat bread to mop up the Colombo Style Crab sauce with much delight. Besides filling up, the bread also helps to tone down the heat levels of the sauce.

We also had Plain Appam and Appam Egg. These too can be enjoyed with any of the main dishes and sambals. I love how the egg is just cooked but the yolk is still oozy soft. Combine the rich yolks with the earlier sambals and I am set. Aliyaa makes awesome fluffy Appams… a must-order!

Our last main dish was Mutton Paal Poriyal, slow cooked mutton in a devilish spiced up sauce till it’s almost dry. The dish has a lovely aroma too, a bit heady with the spices. Laced with lots of curry leaves, the mutton is savory and spicy and melt-in-the-mouth tender. This dish is perfect with rice or roti.

Dinner ended on a flaming note! We had Appam Sugar, a dessert version of the fluffy Appam. Not just satisfied with this, we were told that there is an alcoholic version. And so, we were so excited to see some flaming actions on the brandy or Grand Marnier versions.

The Brandy and Grand Marnier was poured into the Appams and then quickly lighted up to burn off a bit of the alcohol.
When the fire died out, dive right in! These are O.M.G. good…

The edges of the Appam are crispy while the middle is fluffy, soft and now thoroughly moist from the alcohol with bits of caramelized sugar.

How good is this on a scale of one to ten?
An eleven in my books… order your own, you won’t want to share, trust me!

Another dessert that is also scrumptious is Vatilaapam, a rich cream caramel like pudding made from creamy coconut milk, brown palm sugar, eggs and spices. Though it has some air bubbles in the pudding, I still enjoyed the medium firm texture with a nice balance of cinnamon and cardamom. Its quite sweet and the eggy flavours does stand out. It can be quite rich so one may one to share.

Aliyaa Island Restaurant & Bar has really opened up my eyes and taste to Sri Lankan cuisine. Now I know why it is an art as it really takes experience and skills to get the right balance of spices in this cuisine. The cuisine itself is pretty humble too and is enriched with the many combinations of spices in each dish. Make sure to order their signatures or if you are health conscious, check out their new Heart-Healthy Eating menu and still enjoy a taste of Sri Lankan cuisine.

48 G & M, Jalan Medan Setia 2
Bukit Damansara
50490 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603-2092 5378

Business Hour: Mon – Sun: 12.00 pm – 11.00 pm

Website: www.aliyaa.com

*More photos on my Facebook: Chasing Food Dreams


  1. Interesting! Haven't heard of some of the dishes up there, thanks for sharing Jen.

  2. That crab really gave me an impact!

  3. The official language of Sri Lanka is Sinhala so Aliyaa is elephant in Sinhalese, not Singhalese.

    Priyantha Kumaraseri