THEY entered hoping to gain recognition, but the team at Aliyaa Island Restaurant and Bar walked away win seven awards during their maiden participation at the Malaysia International Gourmet Festival (MIGF) 2014.
Aliyaa, which means “elephant” in Sinhalese, won about half the categories it qualified for at the annual festival that sees Malaysia’s top chefs and restaurants competing to create innovative dishes and creative menus to entice diners.
They won the Best Festival Offers (Judges’ Choice), Best Value Menu of the Festival (Judges’ Choice), Most Outstanding Mains - Others (Festival Diners’ Choice Awards), Best Value Menu of the Festival (Festival Diners’ Choice Awards), Most Creative Restaurant Station at Taste MIGF (People’s Choice), Most Innovative Cuisine at Taste MIGF (Judges’ Choice), and Most Popular Restaurant at Taste MIGF - Portions Sold.
“We have always wanted to be in MIGF, but wanted to ensure we were up to the festival’s standards before participating,” said Aliyaa managing director S. Sangeeth.
“We felt that the timing was right this year and that participating in MIGF would create greater awareness about our restaurant.”
He said it took three months for Aliyaa chefs S. Yogeshwaran and S. Sivarajah to design the festival menu, which were available in full and sharing portions.
“The menu served as an introduction to those unfamiliar with Sri Lankan dishes.
“We also wanted diners to learn how to appreciate Sri Lankan cuisine, so the festival menu was packaged according to how the dishes would be typically consumed, such as mutton with roti.
“It offers the best combination of our existing bestsellers. So even regular diners will get to try dishes or combinations they have not known about.”
Aliyaa’s MIGF full menu included Fish Cutlet and Lamb Roti Roll for appetiser and a choice of Mutton Paal Poriyal with Roti or Tiger Prawn Curry with Lumprais, while the sharing menu featured a platter of Mutton Paal Poriyal, Fish Curry, Prawn Sothi, Brinjal Moju, Sri Lankan Crab Curry, egg appam, rice and Doosra Roti for the main course.
Both included String Hopper Kothu for entree and sweet appam for dessert.
“The Sri Lankan Crab Curry and Mutton Paal Poriyal are among our signature dishes.
“In Sri Lankan cuisine, string hopper (putu mayam) is served two ways - plain with sothi (a creamy curry made from coconut milk) and kothu (chopped in fine pieces), which is cooked like stir-fried noodles.
Sangeeth credited Aliyaa’s win to the 100% effort put in by the restaurant’s team.
To celebrate their achievement, he said the restaurant’s 14 employees would be treated to a short island resort holiday in January.
Of the seven categories won, Sangeeth is particularly proud of the Most Popular Restaurant at Taste MIGF - Portions Sold and Most Outstanding Mains - Others awards.
“We believe what gave us the edge was the live demonstration we had for the string hoppers, as we wanted to serve them fresh and hot.
“Those who tried our main course for the first time said it was incredible. Regular diners said it offered a great combination, better even than before,” said Sangeeth.
He added that the MIGF judges were impressed with the Pencarrow Martin Borough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 that was paired with the appetiser and entree, as the wine was not too dry and went well with spicy food.
“The team worked hard to ensure the food, service, presentation, marketing and quality were up to par.
“We are already mulling ideas for the next MIGF. We need to improve on our food presentation, as people ‘eat’ with their eyes first,” said Sangeeth.
The restaurant located in Plaza Damansara has been operating for six years and will be opening its first branch in Ipoh early next year.
Aliyaa has extended the availability of its MIGF festival menu until Nov 30 to enable more diners to try its specialities.