The vividly distinctive flavours of Kerala, the coastal state of south-west India, come alive at Kayra, run with a sense of joy and authoritativeness by Meriam Alfonso, a Malaysian whose family has roots in Kerala. Meriam’s grandfather opened a Keralite restaurant in Johor Baru in 1949, and she’s now bringing the time-honoured, treasured recipes of her heritage to this lovely new venue, bedecked with black-and-white photographs of Kerala.

1. Kayra Kerala 2. Kayra Kerala

Expect an emphasis on grated and roasted coconuts as a key component (Kayra’s name comes from the Malayalam-language equivalent of the swaying coconut palms that abound on Kerala’s shores), plus a unique balance of spices (brought in from Kerala, a region with a rich history of spice trading) that sets the delicately nuanced cooking here apart from much of the southern and northern Indian fare we’re accustomed to in KL.

18. Kayra Kerala 19. Kayra Kerala

Starters

Lunches are currently limited to thali-style rice platter meals, so it’s wiser to visit in the evening, when a complete a la carte menu is unveiled, with an encyclopaedic spectrum of intriguing offerings. We enjoyed the Koddapan (RM12), banana flower and runner beans cooked with grated coconut, curry leaves and mustard seeds, with its gentle dimensions of flavour.

4. Kayra Kerala - Kodappan

The Appo (RM12), mini rice cakes topped with spice powder and coconut chutney, makes for a fun snack, while the Kurumulagu Konju (RM18) features commandingly fresh marinated tiger prawns, deliciously steamed in a banana leaf pouch and garnished with beetroot emulsion. Each dish spotlights an ensemble of well-prepared ingredients that showcase diverse shades and subtleties.

5. Kayra Kerala - Appo 6. Kayra Kerala - Kurumulagu konju

Soups and salads

The Cochin fish soup (RM12) is lightly flavoured with pumpkin, tapioca and raw bananas, though its mildness means it’s not the ideal choice for customers who prefer robust recipes; the Caravela (RM10)  – chickpea puree with aromatic herbs – proves more resonant and unusual-tasting.

8. Kayra Kerala - Cochin fish soup 9. Kayra Kerala - Caravela

If you’re a beetroot worshipper, try the Thoran (RM10), comprising succulent, earthy-sweet chopped beetroot with coarse, crushed coconut, chillies and ginger.

10. Kayra Kerala - THoran

Curries

The Chemeen Mangga Curry (RM29) is a mellowly piquant prawn curry, simmered in coconut paste and tantalisingly textured with sliced raw mangoes, while Delia’s Stew (RM22), creamy-savoury chicken curry, is equally competent, with punchy dynamics – thankfully, neither’s too fiery, enabling us to relish the flavours more effectively.

11. Kayra Kerala - Chemeen Mangga Curry 12. Kayra Kerala - Delia's Stew

Wipe the curries clean with pathiri soft rice pancakes (RM5). If you’re seeking a single-plate meal, possibilities include the Kappa and Meen (RM30), rice with curry leaves-seasoned tapioca and thick, smooth & deep-flavoured classic fish curry cooked with cocum.

13. Kayra Kerala - pathiri 14. Kayra Kerala - Kappa and meen

Desserts

Wrap up with Vattalapam custard (RM10), made with brown palm sugar, coconut milk and cardamom, partnered with honey-dipped grilled pineapple, and Payasam warm sweet rice pudding (RM10), accompanied by pappadam and bananas, concluding a meal that began with ginger-lime complimentary welcome refreshments.

15. Kayra Kerala - Vattalapam custard 16. Kayra Kerala - Payasam 17. Kayra Kerala - ginger and lime

There’s still much more to try at Kayra, from squid with onion relish to roasted mutton with gravy, crabs cooked with house-made masala to eggplant with coriander and yoghurt; expect to hear more about Kayra in the months ahead.

Location & Details

Kayra Kerala Cuisine TTDI

46 Jalan Tun Mohd Fuad 1, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.

Currently open for lunch & dinner, closed on Mondays.

Find: View Kayra Kerala Cuisine’s directory here

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