Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Aliyaa @ Bukit Damansara: Lamprais on Sundays

By EDKL Writer A.A.

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KL’s premier Sri Lankan restaurant, Aliyaa, has been pleasing its patrons with classics like string hoppers, fish sothi and kiribath lamb for nearly a decade, but there’s a new offering here that’s poised to become a well-deserved smash: The banana leaf-wrapped Lamprais (RM28) is now available every Sunday, for dine-in and delivery.

This Dutch Burgher-influenced staple has stood the test of time for more than three centuries in Sri Lanka, and Aliyaa’s recipe - the result of nearly half a year of tastings in Colombo and fine-tuning in Aliyaa’s kitchen to ensure an authentic experience - is something that many Malaysians will enjoy immensely as well.

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Unwrapping this oven-steamed treasure releases a potent fragrance that proclaims how rich and absolutely aromatic it is. The parcel of pleasure reveals a hearty, appetite-rousing meal, complete on its own: Fluffy short-grain rice cooked in a stock of cardamom and cloves (the kitchen relies on spices cultivated in Sri Lanka, no less), surrounded by boneless chicken meat, ash plantains, brinjal pahi (eggplant relish), blachan (shrimp paste) and frickadel (minced chicken meatball).

You might be tempted to sample each ingredient separately, but Aliyaa's chef Shiva (who hails from Sri Lanka’s hill city of Nuwara Eliya, but has been with the restaurant for eight years) recommends mixing everything up thoroughly - that’s how lamprais is traditionally consumed to savour its complex, unique dimensions.

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Boom! Each spoonful promises an array of tastes and textures, simultaneously familiar and surprising. It's not punishingly fiery, but the heat is unmistakeable, lingering pleasantly on the palate. It's many things at one time - savoury and bold, starchy and meaty, grainy and gravied; it may be tricky to pinpoint exactly what you're tasting in each bite, but everything comes together harmoniously for a fulfilling symphony of addictiveness, with a real kick that’ll keep you eating to the end. If you love flavour-packed rice recipes, this is certainly a should-try.

The lamprais is available every Sunday - enjoy it in the comfort of the restaurant, pick it up, or have it delivered for free, anywhere in the Klang Valley. Orders need to be placed with Aliyaa by 7pm on Saturday (via Facebook or by phone). A minimum order of two servings is required, but again, it’s worth stressing that Aliyaa will send it to your doorstep for free, between 12pm-6pm on Sundays.

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Besides the lamprais, we also dug into a signature dish available daily: The Colombo Crab (currently RM16.50 per 100g), featuring fleshy crabs generally flown in live from Sri Lanka, typically weighing between 1- 2 kilograms. The Colombo Crab surfaces in a deep, dark sauce that’s sweetish and slightly spicy - we were happy to wipe the sauce clean after polishing off each morsel of the superbly succulent crustacean, prepared to perfection. Crab enthusiasts, take note. And for further seafood goodness, it’s worth starting your meal here with Fish Cutlets (RM21), crisp on the outside, tender and tasty within.

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We were probably too stuffed for dessert, but there’s no resisting the the Vatilappam (RM10), a luscious custard pudding constructed of coconut, brown palm sugar, eggs, cinnamon and spices - so smooth, you could even slurp it straight off the plate. The Sweet Appam (RM6) is ideally eaten by folding it and biting into it by hand, getting the lovely moist base and impeccably crispy edges all at once in each mouthful.

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To complete this one-of-a-kind gastronomic adventure, Aliyaa boasts a unique cocktail selection that takes delightful cues from South Asian flavours - indulge in the KOT (RM29; a tropical-paradise medley of fresh coconut, Malibu and dark rum), Colombo Cup (RM28; a revitalising concoction that mixes Sri Lanka’s Mendis arrack with dry vermouth and ginger ale) and Cinnabar (RM34; blended fresh coconut with Malibu, crushed ice, rock sugar, finished with a delicately fragrant cinnamon stick, also brought in from Sri Lanka). Many thanks to Aliyaa for one of our most satisfying lunches this month.

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Aliyaa Restaurant & Bar
Daily, 11am–3pm, 6pm–11pm | Tel: 03-2092-5378
48 G&M, Medan Setia 2, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur.

Q Cup Cafe @ Imbi

By EDKL Writer A. A.

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Step inside Q Cup Cafe and you’ll find a charming cafe that unabashedly professes its love for coffee. Coffee art lines the walls; there's a counter full of coffee bean samples (take a whiff!); and with a cheerful proclamation sitting on the countertop, you’ll also discover that the cafe won a local tournament award this year for its espresso. This coffee roaster & cafe takes coffee seriously, so that customers can enjoy a satisfying cup, thanks to its primary founder Yu Tack Yuen.

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Yu's passion for coffee literally knows no borders; he has travelled to plantations in Central America for great beans, meeting farmers to explore the process of cultivation. He has a good heart too, making an effort through his sourcing choices to support the livelihoods of impoverished coffee-growing communities in countries like Honduras. And his determination to offer the best coffee is conveyed through a coveted Panamanian varietal that Q Cup secured by bidding in an online auction.

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So naturally, we have to start with caffeine: Providing the foundation for the Best Espresso title at the Malaysia Open Barista Championship 2017, the Ethiopia Sidamo Bensa G3 Natural (RM22) is a single origin that promises a pleasurably intense fruitiness, naturally balanced in acidity and sweetness. Try it both black and white to experience evolving facets of this coffee.

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And from the highlands of Panama, specifically the family-run Hacienda La Esmeralda estate, comes a Geisha that’s reputedly ranked among the world’s best (RM60 for a pot that’ll suffice for two or three patrons). This limited-availability micro-lot coffee is not something you’ll chance on in a lot of places, so it’s worth sipping it here for a soothingly structured coffee that might make your afternoon.

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You can also opt for fun beverages a Cappuccino Freddo (RM15), Chilled Valrhona Chocolate (RM18) or vanilla-loving Snow White (RM19). Tea lovers aren’t neglected either, with the French Hediard Superior Earl Grey Tea (RM18) furnishing a distinctive, delicate brew.

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We were pleasantly surprised by Q Cup’s food menu, recently expanded to supply more options than ever before, many of them relatively unique in KL’s landscape of cafes. The Pomegranate Salad Bowl (RM18) is lovely, brimming with light, green goodness, modest with the dressing. Order a few starters to share - the Crab Pate on Sliced Baguette (RM18 for three slices) is a snack that’s rich in crustacean creaminess, while the Pan-grilled Tuna with Mango Salsa on Puff Pastry (RM24) is an interesting combination of the fishy and the fruity, with the pastry breaking apart easily in your mouth.

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Here for brunch? No problem - the Turkey Ham Pan-Grilled Cheese Sandwich (RM18) oozes with cheese, layered with ham, packed into fresh bread that Q Cup bakes itself (no shortcuts here!). The Chicken Sausage and Scrambled Eggs (RM18) come with a bagel for a tender chew, with the sausage proving juicy and savoury while the well-portioned eggs are nicely fluffy.

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Hot meals are also available, crossing continents with ease. Q Cup offers a tapas menu that originates from its wine bar upstairs, with plenty of options like the classic Spanish Gambas al Ajillo (RM26), or garlic shrimp with herbs, slightly spicy and altogether addictive. Asian temptations are represented by the likes of Japanese Curry Rice with Deep-fried Prawns (RM26; crunchy breaded prawns with rice and a sweetish, richly satisfying mild curry), and Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Chicken Paste (RM20), which might evoke some interpretation of yong tau foo.

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We’re still not done yet: It’s fairly impressive to see how quality and care is extended through Q Cup’s entire repertoire, which also includes European-inflected mains. The very hearty Ratatouille with Puff Pastry (RM19) is an interesting way to bring crisp textures to the moist heap of the beloved French vegetable stew (vegetarians will be happy to note that they’re not treated as an afterthought here). For omnivores, order the the Italian Breaded Chicken (RM28), a juicy leg, scattered with breadcrumbs for yet another thoughtful twist, partnered with fried turmeric rice pilaff for a can’t-fail protein-and-carb partnership.

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Desserts display a sense of uniqueness too, from a surprisingly presented Honey Toast (RM15) with mixed fresh fruits to the meticulously crafted Strawberry Lover (RM20; a croissant bowl with Q Cup's own-made vanilla ice cream, custard and strawberries) and Mango Churros (RM23), pairing churros with thinly sliced mangoes that leave a memorable impression.

Note that Q Cup is more than a cafe; upstairs, there’s a cosy wine bar with a cool selection that stretches from Japan to New Zealand - suitable for mellow catch-up sessions or even business dinners. Coffee tasting sessions and brewing workshops are also offered - check out Q Cup’s Facebook page for their schedule.

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Thanks to the terrific Q Cup team for an afternoon well spent.

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Q Cup Coffee Roasters
72, Jalan Imbi, Kuala Lumpur.
Daily, 8am-8pm | Tel: 03–2113-0320


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