Coast by Kayra – Kerala Restaurant, Starhill Gallery KL
Words: Karen Santosuosso
Photos: Rich Callahan
Many Yum List readers may be well familiar with the Michelin-acclaimed Kayra restaurant in Bangsar. Owner and third-generation Keralan Malaysian Meriam Alfonso, along with Executive Chef Sal Sabeel, now have a new restaurant project – Coast by Kayra – in the Bukit Bintang neighbourhood. Located within the upscale Starhill building, Coast by Kayra has a tasteful and refreshing ambience with lots of blue and white hues. The menu celebrates Meriam’s family recipes from the coasts of Kerala in southern India – highlighting beautiful seafood dishes and traditional delicacies with a modern twist – and surpassing our expectations of southern Indian food being all banana leaf and thali.
Coast by Kayra KL
Having originally trained and worked as a lawyer, Meriam was still always dabbling in food. Her family grew up around the table, sharing communal meals at the first Kerala restaurant in Malaysia, which her grandfather opened in the late 1940s. Around 2010, she decided to step away from her work as a lawyer and pursue food full-time. First interning at an Italian restaurant, Meriam realised she was constantly second-guessing her food, so she ultimately decided to return to her roots. “I know Kerala cuisine and dishes. It’s been in my family through generations, so I figured I should do it justice.”
Starters & Small Plates
At Coast by Kayra, Meriam and Chef Sabeel are pushing boundaries with seafood and playing with many fun, small-plate options. We begin our meal with the Dahi Puri Shooters (RM 50 for 4 pieces). The crispy rice shells encase a fresh mixture of local Malaysian crabmeat and herbs and are washed down with a ‘shot’ of crab assam. It’s the perfect way to get our taste buds tuned in for what’s to come.
The Mini Appam with Sea Tiger Prawn (RM 38 for 2 pieces) is another excellent twist on Kerala-style street food. Meriam tells us it took the chefs a lot of trial and error to find the vessel suitable to cook the tiny appams in. Their experimental efforts have certainly paid off, as we thoroughly appreciate the cuteness factor of the mini appam treats.
The Gunpowder Scallops (RM 55 for 2 pieces) and Coastal Spiced Oysters (RM 45/piece or RM 40/piece for a half dozen) are wonderful starters, too. The scallops are one of my favourite dishes, served in a rich, bright yellow turmeric and saffron sauce and topped with caviar, spiced lentil gunpowder, pappad, and curry leaf pearls. The oysters, a Gallagher Speciales variety from Ireland, come with green chilli, herbs, calamansi and a bottle of curry leaf spray to spritz on top for extra flavour.
Vegetarian & Gluten-Free Options
Plant-based diners are sure to find something to delight in on Coast by Kayra’s menu. We’re informed that many recipes usually made with ghee can also be substituted with coconut oil to accommodate vegans. We try the Calicut Crunch (RM 30 for 3 pieces), which is beautifully presented and resembles wild chestnuts. They are vegetarian croquettes made with edamame balls, millet, lentils, and a kataifi coating, which gives them a satisfying crunch, all served atop a stunning beetroot and chilli sorbet sauce. We also enjoy the Kichidi Salad (RM 32), a nourishing mixture of fiddlehead fern, sweet potato shoots, pennywort, coconut, and lotus stem crips atop a pumpkin puree. This is a dish that I would definitely come back for. The Roasted Cauliflower (RM 32) is another vegetarian option that brings a smoky nuttiness, served with a roasted pepper chutney marinade.
Coast by Kayra offers creative vegetarian and gluten-free condiments, too. Pachadi, a typical South Indian side dish, usually refers to any kind of fresh pickles or plants that have been pounded or crushed. We go for the Grape Pachadi (RM 20), which has deliciously charred grapes atop a dip that resembles a Middle Eastern mezze dish.
Big Plates & Seafood
The fresh seafood dishes really are the star of the show at Coast by Kayra. Their menu has a section where guests can see exactly where all their seafood is coming from – with the majority coming from local Malaysian waters. We enjoy the Tuna Mango Pachadi Tartelettes (RM 35 for 2 pieces), which have a coconutty mixture of tuna tartare, mango mustard curd, arrowroot and a crisp pastry shell. Another fresh option is the Salmon & Coconut Ceviche (RM 40), which features plump citrus-cured salmon chunks, a chilled coconut broth, curry leaf oil, crisp green apple, and pomelo.
Most people familiar with Keralan cuisine usually think of seafood moilee. Coast by Kayra’s Seafood Moilee (RM 95) is indeed a traditional mixture of fresh mussels, prawns and jumbo clams in a creamy coconut, turmeric and fenugreek broth. I do believe, though, that one cannot go to Coast by Kayra without trying the Kerala Fish Curry, based on a family recipe passed down for decades. We go for the Red Snapper Fillet (RM 60) since we have so many other dishes, but you may want to try one of the whole fish options. We are told that the key is getting the spice ratio down, along with raw mango and yoghurt, to balance the flavour, making for a fish curry recipe that Meriam’s family and Chef Sabeel have truly mastered.
If you’re not into seafood, there is still something on the menu for you, too. We taste the Duck Inji Puli (RM 55), which consists of oven-roasted tender duck on a bed of sweet and sour jaggery, tamarind and ginger sauce. Rich requests the sauce by the jarful – maybe a future business venture at Coast by Kayra!
The curries and sauces are all delightfully sopped up by an array of homemade rotis and appams. Coast by Kayra’s kitchen houses two beautiful bronze tandoor ovens where you can watch the bread being made firsthand. We enjoy the Bakarkhani (RM 18), which is a semolina and wheat-baked flatbread, as well as the rich Duck Egg Appam (RM 15).
Coast by Kayra Dessert Menu
Bellies full and happy, we still manage to make room for dessert. The Paradise Parfait (RM 35) showcases the tropical flavours of Kerala with mango semifreddo, lemongrass and coconut sago, and a mango passionfruit sorbet. The Banoffee Waffam (RM 35) uses the appam batter to create a sweet and sour Belgian-style waffle with burnt coconut ice cream, salted jaggery caramel, and banana fritters on top. It all feels a bit sinful, but it is truly delicious and not too sweet.
My favourite dessert is the Cocoa-Nut (RM 40), a chocolate mousse using Malaysian single-origin 70% dark chocolate with a punchy jackfruit calamansi sauce, homemade jackfruit ice cream, coconut sponge cake and a buckwheat crumble. Our table is divided as not everyone is a jackfruit lover, but that only means more Cocoa-Nut for me!
Our desserts are washed down with a warm cup of Masala Chai (RM 15). The spiced blend is comforting and pairs well with chocolatey and fruity desserts.
Cocktails Starhill Gallery KL
The new bar at Coast by Kayra serves some wonderfully creative cocktails. My particular favourite is the Kaffir Limoncello Spritz (RM 46). I’m immediately drawn to anything with kaffir lime listed on the menu, so the citrusy mixture of kaffir, limoncello, prosecco, and tonic bitters goes down quite easily. Another fresh and citrusy cocktail, beautifully presented with delicate flowers on top, is the Mullappoo-tini (RM 38). A mixture of vodka, grapefruit, lime, bitters, sugar syrup and jasmine foam, it is a good option for anyone who likes a bit of a sweeter cocktail.
Mon, a loyal Negroni lover, enjoys the Masala Negroni (RM 42). The traditional masala spices do a brilliant job of cutting the bitterness of vermouth. We also try the Black Velvet (RM 38) as we’re wondering how a stout reduction, ginger beer, and Amaro Montenegro could possibly work together. And they do in a strangely satisfying way!
The menu has a range of refreshing mocktails and other drinks for non-alcohol drinkers, too.
Coast by Kayra Review
I know I’ll be returning to Coast by Kayra with more friends soon. Meriam’s elevated sea-to-plate take on traditional Kerala cuisine is inventive and celebratory. The service is top-notch, and I’m looking forward to trying some other dishes on the menu, like their dosa tacos, fish moilee biryani, and tres leches ras malai. It’s a wonderful environment for any kind of celebration or if you just have a hankering for some succulent seafood. There are also discovery menus for diners to get a little sampling of many dishes in case they’re new to Keralan cuisine and feeling a bit overwhelmed by the menu.
Reasons to visit Coast by Kayra: loads of gluten-free and vegan options; the fish curry alone is worth the visit; it’s the perfect venue for a date or larger gathering – with an attractive private room that can seat up to 16 people; check out the local artwork displayed in the restaurant, too, including photos from Kerala taken by Chef Sabeel himself!
Coast by Kayra
Lot G03-G05, Ground Floor, Starhill Gallery
181, Jln Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
+60 17 215 7264
Coast by Kayra Opening Hours
11:30 am – 11 pm daily