Authentic flavours of Sri Lanka reign at A Li Yaa with guest chef Sapna Anand
A Li Yaa, the cosy, unassuming Sri Lankan restaurant nestled along the row of shoplots at Jalan Medan Setia 2 in Bukit Damansara, has never failed to impress with authentic flavours and original Sri Lankan recipes.
In a new venture to introduce a bigger array of Sri Lankan delicacies to us, it recently had Chef Sapna Anand, author of the cookbook 'New Indian Kitchen', over as a guest chef. Chef Sapna is an accomplished graduate from Le Cordon Bleu Bangkok and is acclaimed for her private dinners with her 'My Test Kitchen' sessions.
In her collaboration with A Li Yaa, she presented a 5-course meal that was the perfect balance of authentic flavours and modern cooking techniques that left this writer thoroughly impressed.
Soup: Sri Lankan spice roasted tomato, carrot and pepper soup with truffle emulsion, garlic croutons and spice glazed baby carrots
The idea of a tomato soup is nothing new but Chef Sapna’s soup is laced with a mild spice that is highly invigorating. In texture, the soup is thick and creamy, coating the palate with full, robust flavours. It starts off with the signature natural sweetness of fresh tomatoes before a nice punchy tartness awakens the appetite. It then trails off with a nice roasted smokiness, enhanced by the slight earthiness of the truffle emulsion.
Salad: Roasted beetroot carpaccio with feta mousse, nastarium leaves, edible flowers, ginger and toasted cumin dressing
Chef Sapna’s salad is almost too pretty to eat. It encompasses not only leaves and shoots of vegetables, but also precious edible flowers in beautiful shades of yellow and orange. The roasted beetroot carpaccio is juicy and sweet, making for a natural dressing for the salad. Dollops of feta mousse fill in the blanks where savoury and salty notes are missing, presenting a salad that is well-rounded in texture and taste.
Main 1: Stuffed chilli crab with coriander and blackpepper crust, carrot coconut sambol, broad beans with mustard seeds and mango curd
This dish illustrates Chef Sapna’s skill in stretching the palate with flavours that sit on opposite spectrums of the taste scale. Shredded crab meat is mixed with dessicated coconut for mouthfuls that are fleshy and delightfully chewy. Beware if you’re not accustomed to the hot and spicy because there is ample spice in this dish. The hotness however is quickly subdued with a mouthful of the carrot coconut sambol that provides that provides a refreshing sweetness. Broad beans lend a nice bite to the whole dish and really capping things off, the mango curd intensifies flavours with its sweet and sour element while rounding things up with its tangy creaminess.
Main 2: Grilled Sri Lankan cinnamon and black Telicherry pepper tiger prawns with smoked pickled eggplant, string hoppers in saffron stew and pepper lotus root chips
This dish is a prawn lover’s dream come true – every element of it is crafted to enhance the tang of the prawn and add to the texture and overall experience. Once shelled, the prawns are springy to the bite – a nod to its freshness – with its sweetness enhanced by only a very light seasoning. The string hoppers lend a nice bite when eaten with the prawns. On its own, the hoppers prove a little bland, but the sharp kick of the smoked pickled eggplant duly solves that problem with its strong flavours. Worry not if you’re not a fan of sharp pungence because the saffron stew calms down the acidity, transforming the eggplant into well-rounded bites.
Dessert: Parisian chocolate cake with cardamom pistachio coconut ice cream, cinnamon grilled pineapple with tender coconut, raspberry lychee macaron and raspberry coulis
As a dish, this writer felt the combination of sweets were a bit jarring, if not displaced. Hot and cold were presented together in equally non-matching flavours of sweet and creamy versus sour and spicy.
Individually though, the Parisian chocolate cake is deliciously rich and moist, marrying the cardamom pistachio coconut ice cream beautifully. The cardamom takes a little getting used to at first, but beyond the first few mouthfuls, it proves an exciting addition to a commonly found flavour with its explosive vigour.
The raspberry and lychee macaron is a delight from start to finish with mild raspberry flavours that bloom on the tongue, before the fragrance of lychee buoys the sweetness to the tip of your palate.
The grilled pineapple will either be a hit or miss depending on whether you like pineapples. Its time on the grill has tenderised it and the dash of cinnamon adds a smoky sweetness to it, so it will sit well with lovers of pineapples looking for a new take on the tropical fruit.
For more information on A Li Yaa or to try more Sri Lankan delights at the restaurant and bar, please call 03 - 2092 5378. To book a session with Chef Sapna Anand during her private dinner sessions, follow her on Facebook here.