There will always be the dark waters where memory and reality intersect. Childhood flavours cast spells of unrealistic perfection over us due to the associations of sentimentality. In reality, a perfectly mediocre dish can be remembered as delivering unctuous magnitude, caught in the fairy dust of nostalgia. A visit back to those restaurants often ends in disappointment.
Keralan cuisine is something I've had the luxury of being exposed to at a very young age. When we were barely old enough for most fairground rides, we were tackling the waves at Lighthouse Beach, ordering fresh prawn curries at Volga. Those fiery, rich, coconut infused curries sent our young mouths spiralling into bursts of salivation. Water doused the flames, but the fire within remained.
After subsequent adulthood and the vagaries of pining for one's youth, I have managed to visit Kerala on many occasions. Discovering the glories of Oceano's, Fusion Bay and Seagulls in Fort Kochi where the chefs blend majestic coal-red curries with raw mango and plump, just-cooked prawns. Droplets of oil speckle the surface proving that it's been cooked out correctly. Fluffy rice transports bite sized portions into the mouth as the humid air carries off your sehnsucht temporarily.
I did not expect to revisit these emotions at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur.
Through a facebook post shared by a friend of mine in Hong Kong, a relative of his replied urging me to try Kayra. I quickly googled it and was presented with a long list of accolades and favorable reviews. I planned to head there that very night and fumbled around on my phone until a Grab taxi was enroute. After twenty minutes stuck in the evening traffic of Bangsar, we pulled up to the mall and I headed up the escalators. If I honestly said I expected to be blown away, i'd be lying.
After finding a seat on the balcony, perusing the menu, ordering a sparkling water and eavesdropping on the neighbouring table, my food arrived. I took a quick look around, noticing predominantly South Indian clientele. Tick!
As the waiter set down my green mango prawn curry, I did a double take. I was suddenly back in Kochi, swatting flies and drenched in sweat, laughing while the boats ran by void of dreams.
The depth of flavour in that innocent, blushing curry was beyond words. Plump prawns just cooked through, rice pillowy and perfect, my mouth ignited with the furious interplay of spices. At one point I actually pushed my chair back for a brief respite to just focus. Yes, KL has some of the best Indian food on the planet, but this was a very specific cuisine showcased in undying tones of worship. No Keralan would ever feel shortchanged dining here. To be brutally honest, this even surpassed dishes I ate at the most famous spots in South India.
As I sit in my living room in Oslo, typing out this diatribe to other-worldly greatness, I pine for Kayra. I ended up returning twice before leaving Malaysia, having the pleasure of sharing the experience with friends, Wasif and Kashif, and watching their faces light up when the spoons delivered the initial impact. Due to the increased numbers, we were able to sample more of their menu. Overall everything was delicious. Whether delicately spiced, slightly milder Kingfish Curry, fiery tempered beef, or the mind-bogglingly delicious Lamb Bone Marrow that had us almost fighting for the last thick limbs hanging to the plate.
This restaurant will go straight into the top tier of Kuala Lumpurs elite. When you take into account the excellent service, and the acceptable prices, then here is a surefire winner if ever you had one.
P.s. If you are ever in Old Town Phuket, check out Wasifs burger joint and cocktail bar here.
All these recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.