Sri Lankan Restaurant Kuala Lumpur

Café Colombo KL – TRX, Sri Lankan Colonial Cuisine

Café Colombo KL – The Exchange Mall, TRX – Sri Lankan Colonial Cuisine

Words: Stephen Reid
Photos: Han Sen Hau

Sri Lanka holds a special place in my heart, thanks to my close friendship with someone who is half Sri Lankan. Her mother was Sinhalese and hailed from what was then known as Ceylon. Through this friendship, I developed a deep appreciation for the beauty and charms of this island nation, nestled in the Indian Ocean just off the southeastern coast of India. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Sri Lanka many times and have grown to love its cuisine. So, I eagerly accepted when Monica invited me to try out the food at Cafe Colombo, located in Kuala Lumpur’s latest destination, The Exchange Mall TRX.

The Exchange Mall TRX is a glitzy shopping mall that’s a luxury retail haven rapidly emerging as a food lover’s paradise. As well as the vast array of F&B establishments on the lower floor, a more refined and cosmopolitan dining experience awaits on the upper levels. Ascend the gleaming escalators from the main entrance, weaving through the chic stores, or take Lift A for a swift ride to the Dining Terrace.

This sophisticated selection of eating and drinking establishments caters to a crowd that appreciates the finer things in life. Patrons who enjoy lingering over their meals, savouring each bite, and perhaps indulging in a post-work or shopping libation will feel right at home.

Amidst this elevated culinary landscape, you’ll find Café Colombo, nestled next to its sister restaurant, Las Meninas, before you reach the English restaurant and bar, Elementary, which is also part of the esteemed Cinnamon Group. This trio of dining destinations is strategically located towards the end of the Dining Terrace, creating a hub of gastronomic excellence.

Sri Lankan Restaurant Kuala Lumpur dining area with plants and fans
Café Colombo
Sri Lankan Restaurant Kuala Lumpur dining area green dining area with fans and painting
Café Colombo

Café Colombo KL – Sri Lankan Restaurant TRX

As you approach Café Colombo, your eyes will be drawn to the elegant planters overflowing with green palms, creating a welcoming entrance. The restaurant’s exterior is adorned with a striking charcoal black colour contrasting beautifully with the vibrant lime and darker green signage featuring the establishment’s coconut palm tree logo. This exquisite colour combination sets the tone for the sensory delight that awaits you inside.

Step onto the airy ‘outdoor’ terrace, where wooden tables and chairs, stained a deep mahogany shade and adorned with pale wickerwork seat backs, invite you to relax. Overhead, huge fans rotate lazily, providing a cooling breeze even on the hottest of days. This alfresco setting is the perfect spot to immerse yourself in the ambience of the surroundings.

Alternatively, venture inside and be transported back in time to an era when Sri Lanka was a part of the former British empire. The interior design exudes elegance, with white painted brick and dark mahogany woodwork complemented by splashes of forest green from lush tropical plants and sophisticated green tapestry seat upholstery. The frosted glass windows, embellished with images of peacocks and palm fronds, add to the enchanting atmosphere.

Behind the mirrored bar, an array of drinks from around the world glisten like jewels in their brightly coloured bottles. The thoughtfully curated selection of beverages creates a visual feast that whets your appetite for the culinary delights to come. Every detail of Café Colombo’s design has been carefully considered, creating a dining destination that is a treat for the taste buds and a feast for the senses.

We sat down with Chef Akila Sanka, executive chef, who told us that the first branch of Cafe Colombo opened its doors a year ago in IOI City Mall, Putrajaya. Under the culinary prowess of Sri Lankan head chef Ruchitha Eranga, one of the stalwarts of Malaysia’s Cinnamon Group, the original Café Colombo quickly made a name for itself.

Chef Eranga’s culinary journey began with his mother’s cooking and has since spanned various esteemed establishments, including Colombo’s historic Galle Face Hotel and the Cinnamon Group’s South Asian-themed hotspots, Aliyaa and Nadodi. His inspiration from Sri Lankan cuisine is evident in the dishes he creates, offering an authentic taste of the island’s rich culinary heritage.

Café Colombo Drinks Menu

In addition to their unique Colombo Bru Coffee, there are delicious Callebaut chocolate drinks, either hot or cold, a wide range of drinks blended with ice and fruit smoothies, and a selection of soft drinks and spritzers.

If you are looking for a pick-me-up drink after a hard day of work or shopping, I recommend trying the Colombo Bru Coffee Tarik (RM 8). It is a hot and spicy coffee that can also be served iced. I was afraid it might be too sugary, but it was perfect. The sweetness and the spice complemented each other well. I would order it again.

We also had the opportunity to sample the Masala Chai (RM 8). This traditional Indian beverage was served in a charming stainless steel cup and saucer, reminiscent of the authentic way it is often enjoyed in India. Upon taking the first sip, the spiced cardamom flavour immediately transported me back to my time living in India, where I had the pleasure of experiencing this classic tea regularly. The aromatic and warm spices, including cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon, created a delightful and comforting flavour profile that was both familiar and comforting.

Sri Lankan Restaurant Kuala Lumpur Masala Chai & Colombo Bru Coffee Tarik
Masala Chai & Colombo Bru Coffee Tarik

We enjoyed the Cinnamon Iced Lemon Tea (RM 16) from the Mocktail Menu. This creative concoction is made with Earl Grey tea infused with cinnamon, fresh lemon juice, and a touch of honey. The drink was the perfect remedy for a hot afternoon.

Sri Lankan Restaurant Kuala Lumpur Cinnamon Iced Lemon Tea
Cinnamon Iced Lemon Tea

Cocktail Menu

Cafe Colombo’s signature cocktail menu is a delight for the senses, thanks to the skill and imagination of its mixologists. One of them is Mattman, Monica’s favourite, who always brings his energy and creativity to the bar. He’s the beverage manager for this group of restaurants and can be relied upon to curate delicious mixes consistently. Each of the four cocktails captures the essence of Sri Lanka’s diverse and delicious cuisine.

Other classic cocktails are, of course, available on request, but we opted to try the Sri Lankan Mojito (RM 35). A refreshing take on the classic mojito that incorporated the vibrant flavours of Sri Lanka. This cocktail was a fusion of fresh coconut water, smooth white rum, tangy lime juice, fragrant mint leaves, and a hint of Sri Lankan palm sugar syrup. The Sri Lankan Mojito invited us to experience the island’s unique flavours while savouring the familiar elements of a traditional mojito. The fresh coconut water added a touch of tropical goodness, while the white rum provided a smooth base. Lime juice delivered a burst of tanginess, and the mint leaves infused the cocktail with a refreshing aroma.

Sri Lankan Restaurant Kuala Lumpur Sri Lankan Mojito
Sri Lankan Mojito

We also sampled the Mango Lassi Martini. (RM 35) which was the best of both worlds, blending a martini’s elegance with Sri Lanka’s vibrant flavours. The cocktail began with a vodka base, providing a smooth and neutral canvas for the other ingredients to shine. Mango puree infused the cocktail with a burst of sweetness and the tropical aroma of ripe mangoes. Yoghurt was incorporated to lend a creamy texture and a tangy note reminiscent of a traditional mango lassi. A hint of cardamom introduced a subtle warmth and a touch of spice, so characteristic of Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine.

Sri Lankan Restaurant Kuala Lumpur Mango Lassi Martini
Mango Lassi Martini

Wine List

Whilst Café Colombo offers a wide range of alternatives, I enjoy a meal more accompanied by a glass of wine that complements the main dishes, and Café Colombo offers a global selection of twelve reds and eleven whites at reasonable prices. They also have prosecco and dessert wines for those who prefer something different. We decided to try their house wines, which came by the glass and were pleasantly surprised.

To complement our starters and salad dishes, we savoured a glass of Clearwater Cove Sauvignon Blanc 2022 (RM 30 per glass or RM 180 for a bottle), a delightful dry white wine from New Zealand’s South Island. This wine was a bright straw colour with subtle green hues, making it a perfect pairing for our seafood and vegetarian fare. The wine had a smooth and refreshing character, with a hint of grapefruit that added a pleasing, zesty note.

Sri Lankan Restaurant Kuala Lumpur Clearwater Cove Sauvignon Blanc 2022
Clearwater Cove Sauvignon Blanc 2022

We wanted a wine that could match the bold flavours of our main courses, especially the Lamb Shank Curry. We chose a Beaujolais-Village Maison Piron, 2019, France (RM 38 per glass or RM 225 for a bottle). This wine is made from Gamay grapes grown by Dominique Piron and his American wife, Kristine Mary, experts in Beaujolais wines. They have been producing quality wines from different vineyards in the region since 1971.

This refined and elegant Beaujolais-Villages showcased the contemporary winemaking style in this area. It had a delicate and appealing red fruit flavour with smooth tannins and a spicy touch on the tongue. The body is well-balanced and medium-sized, and the finish is bright and refreshing. It paired incredibly well with our lamb main course.

Sri Lankan Restaurant Kuala Lumpur Beaujolais-Village Maison Piron, 2019, France
Beaujolais-Village Maison Piron, 2019, France

Mattman and his team are working on a new drink menu for Café Colombo based on customer feedback. They want to offer more mocktails and alcohol-free options. But don’t worry; if you’re in the mood for something more potent, you can still order any cocktail or wine you like. Just ask the friendly staff, and they’ll get it from Elementary or Las Meninas next door.

Starters

We started our meal with the Gotukola-Coconut Salad Bowl (RM18). This classic Sri Lankan dish captured the island’s vibrant flavours. This salad honoured the traditional recipe, featuring crisp and fresh gotukola (also known as pennywort or pegaga in Malaysia, where it is mainly eaten as a vegetable or an ‘ulam’ by the Malay communities. Pegaga is a small, annual, slender, creeping herb with medicinal properties. ), finely chopped and mixed with freshly grated coconut. The recipe was enlivened with the addition of carrots for a pop of colour and crunch, tomatoes for a tangy note, and creamy avocado for a touch of indulgence, while a simple dressing of lime and black pepper gave it a refreshing and zesty touch.

Sri Lankan Restaurant Kuala Lumpur Gotukola-Coconut Salad Bowl
Gotukola-Coconut Salad Bowl

Next, we sampled the Vegetable Cutlets (RM 12), a popular snack and appetiser in the country’s cuisine. These treats are made with a mixture of finely chopped and mashed vegetables combined with aromatic spices and herbs and then shaped into small patties. The vegetable cutlets were coated in a breadcrumb and then deep-fried until crispy and golden brown. They’re served piping hot, accompanied by a tangy chilli sauce.

Sri Lankan Restaurant Kuala Lumpur Vegetable Cutlets
Vegetable Cutlets

Main Courses

You can choose from various delicious dishes to share for the main course, including several vegetarian courses.

We started with Cashew Curry (RM 24), consisting of carrots and cashew nuts simmered in a mild curry sauce that was expertly seasoned with a delicate blend of spices. The carrots were cooked until tender, their natural sweetness complementing the rich and nutty flavour of the cashews. The mild curry sauce provided a subtle warmth, with hints of aromatic spices like cumin, coriander, and turmeric. This sauce brought all the ingredients together, creating a flavorful and satisfying dish that was comforting and delicious.

Cafe Colombo The Exchange Mall TRX Cashew Curry
Cashew Curry

Our next dish was an astonishing Eggplant Salad (RM 18). Chef Akila told us that this was made from the recipe belonging to the mother of Abbi Kanthasamy, who founded the Cinnamon Group, hence ‘Amma’s eggplant salad’. I was deceived by the appearance of this salad, which looked like a bowl of well-caramelised onions. I was, therefore, amazed when the salad tasted light and fresh, the lime dressing offsetting the incredibly fine slivers of eggplant that had been fried until they were golden and brown.

Cafe Colombo The Exchange Mall TRX Eggplant Salad
Eggplant Salad

Another vegetarian dish we enjoyed was the Coconut Beans (RM16), a plate of tender green beans simmered in a delicate coconut curry. Chef Akila explained that this was a traditional recipe, but he had updated it by keeping the beans crisp and bright instead of overcooking them. I loved the contrast between the crunchy beans and the smooth curry, which had a hint of sweetness from the coconut milk. Cherry tomatoes added a freshness, and fried curry leaves gave a fragrant touch.

Coconut Beans
Coconut Beans

From the Open Flame

After sampling the vegetarian dishes, we spiced up our meal with some Kochchi Chicken Kebabs (RM 38). Kochchii means bird’s eye chilli in Sinhalese, and this dish certainly packs a punch of backyard flavour. Tender chunks of chicken are soaked in a tangy marinade of yoghurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, and a medley of spices, such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, fennel, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. The star of the show, however, is the Kochchi chilli, a fiery and fragrant pepper that gives the kebabs a unique zing. Chef Akila revealed a secret to us: he ferments the chillis before using them, which enhances their flavour and makes them taste like jalapeños.

The chicken is marinated twice: chilli, curry leaves, and vinegar for 24 hours, then in yoghurt. Then, it is skewered and grilled over charcoal, which imparts a smoky aroma to the meat. The juicy and delicious Kochchi Chicken kebabs arrive at our table in a hot cast iron skillet, accompanied by a curry leaf chutney that balances the spiciness with a touch of sourness.

This dish has a fascinating history behind it. Sir Graeme Thomson, a British colonial officer who served in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) from 1931 to 1933, was fascinated by the local culture and cuisine. He compiled over 300 recipes from different parts of the island and published them in “Ceylon Cookery” in 1934. Kochchi Chicken kebabs were one of the recipes that showcased the rich and diverse flavours of Sri Lankan cuisine.

Cafe Colombo The Exchange Mall TRX Kochchi Chicken Kebabs
Kochchi Chicken Kebabs

Our next culinary adventure was Lamprais (RM 36), a weekend-only speciality showcasing Sri Lankan Dutch’ Burgher’ heritage. This dish consists of rice, meat, and curry enveloped in a banana leaf and baked to perfection. It is a complete and portable meal, similar to an Indian tiffin lunch box designed for convenience in Sri Lanka. But we were lucky enough to enjoy it leisurely in the cosy atmosphere of Café Colombo.

Cafe Colombo The Exchange Mall TRX Lamprais
Lamprais

At Café Colombo, meat lovers will be thrilled by the Lamb Shank Curry (RM58), which impressed us with its flavour and presentation. Chef Akila and beverage manager Mattman recommended this dish, and we were glad they did. The lamb was slow-cooked for eight hours with fragrant spices like cinnamon and cardamom, resulting in succulent and juicy meat that melted in our mouths. This dish was a highlight of our visit, demonstrating the art of slow cooking. The generous portion was ideal for sharing; it was warm, satisfying, and delicious. The clay pot kept the dish hot and added a rustic charm.

Cafe Colombo The Exchange Mall TRX Lamb Shank Curry
Lamb Shank Curry

Among the many mouthwatering seafood dishes on the menu, we tried the Jaffna Curry King Prawns (RM 28 per 100g), a scrumptious speciality from Sri Lanka. You have three options: a creamy Lankan curry, a spicy chilli and garlic sauce, or a Jaffna Varuval style, which we highly recommend. Jaffna Varuval is a sizzling prawn dish that combines traditional Tamil spices and lemongrass, creating a burst of flavours and aromas. Jaffna is the name of the northernmost port city of Sri Lanka, situated on a barren and windswept peninsula.

The Jaffna Curry King Prawns were prepared in the authentic Jaffna Varuval style, resulting in a dry, fiery dish. The prawns were marinated in a delectable mix of traditional Tamil spices and lemongrass, which gave them a unique texture and a rich flavour, balanced by a touch of heat. The prawns were tender and succulent, cooked perfectly to retain their juiciness.

Cafe Colombo The Exchange Mall TRX Jaffna Curry King Prawns
Jaffna Curry King Prawns

To accompany our main courses, we enjoyed an absolute South Asian flatbread delight with the delectable Butter Paratha (RM8). Generously layered with butter, this bread will satisfy even the most discerning carb enthusiasts. We enjoyed the harmonious balance between a firm, crackly texture and a fluffy, flaky interior. The generous application of butter added a rich, flaky quality that elevated the flatbread to new heights of indulgence. I encouraged our photographer, Han Sen, to put down his camera for a moment and enjoy them while they were hot, as they were simply too good to miss.

Cafe Colombo The Exchange Mall TRX Butter Paratha
Butter Paratha

As we savoured the mouthwatering curries, we also enjoyed a bowl of Tempered Yellow Rice (RM 10). This fluffy rice was ideal for capturing the rich flavours of the sauces and curries. It had a pale yellow hue from the saffron threads that infused it, and it was garnished with crunchy cashews and fragrant curry leaves.

Cafe Colombo The Exchange Mall TRX Tempered Yellow Rice
Tempered Yellow Rice

Café Colombo Dessert Menu

We enjoyed indulging in the Sweet Appam (RM 8), a delightful Sri Lankan dessert. This treat consisted of a delicate bowl-shaped batter filled with a luscious coconut custard and sprinkled with jaggery sugar, a traditional sweetener made from cane sugar. The flavours instantly transported me back to my last trip to Sri Lanka, where I enjoyed this dish by the pool at the Galle Fort Resort. It’s incredible how a single bite can evoke such vivid memories.

As I reminisced about that unforgettable experience, the dessert quickly disappeared – a testament to its irresistible charm. The soft batter, creamy custard, and sweet jaggery combined left us satisfied yet still wanting more.

Cafe Colombo The Exchange Mall TRX Sweet Appam
Sweet Appam

Café Colombo KL Review

With the recent opening of Café Colombo’s second branch, there is no doubt that the restaurant’s popularity and reputation will only continue to soar. This new location offers patrons the chance to indulge in the same delightful dishes and warm hospitality that have made the original a cherished dining spot.

The menu is a culinary tribute to colonial Sri Lanka, skillfully blending the island’s vibrant flavours with the refined elegance of a bygone era. Each dish is a testament to the rich history and culture of Sri Lanka, taking diners on a gastronomic journey that also brings modern freshness to traditional recipes. The exceptional quality of the food has left me eager to return, and I am already planning my next visit with a group of friends to share this remarkable experience.

Reasons to visit Café Colombo KL: lovely indoor/ outdoor vibe on the happening Dining Terrace at TRX; must try the Gotukola-Coconut Salad Bowl, all the veggie mains (cashew curry, eggplant salad & coconut beans), and the Kochchi Chicken; wash everything down with a refreshing Sri Lankan Mojito.

Café Colombo KL
Level 2, Dining Terrace, The Exchange Mall
Tun Razak Exchange, Persiaran TRX
55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Link to Cafe Colombo Google Map
+6012 7631 596
www.cafecolombo.com
*pork-free

Café Colombo TRX Opening Hours
Daily 10 am to 10 pm

Find more places to dine at The Exchange Mall TRX here and stay up to date with the happenings around Malaysia here and here. 

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