Jien has been talking about the banana leaf rice at Shobana’s Kerala Kitchen in Jalan Gasing for several months now – he visited the restaurant with his colleagues and came home telling me how good the food was. It wasn’t until recently that we went there together, when both our lunch schedule freed up on a weekday.
Shobana’s Kerala Kitchen is located along the row of shoplots behind Acha Curry House, and it used to be called May & Mikes. Probably why I didn’t peg them as a banana leaf rice spot in the first place. On a Friday afternoon, Shobana’s Kerala Kitchen is packed with customers – all tucking into their portion of banana leaf rice and side dishes.
Once you get a seat, head over to the hot food station, pick your side dishes and have the staff send them over to your table. We opted for the fish molee (RM10), chicken varuval (RM8), fish cutlet (RM2) and vegetable cutlet (RM2) to go with our banana leaf rice set.
The banana leaf rice set at Shobana’s Kerala Kitchen (RM8 per person) comes with three vegetable sides, a choice of chicken, fish and dhal gravy, rasam and payasam. Dining here feels like I’m eating in someone’s home – the mood is warm and welcoming. Service is attentive too, from what I experienced and gathered from other customers around me.
We opted for pooni rice, and a mixture of chicken and fish curry on top. Shobana’s vegetable side dishes are simple yet tasty; something you’d get in an Indian family’s home. The side dishes here are commendable. Jien and I particularly enjoyed the fish molee, a Kerala-style fish curry cooked with plenty of coconut milk.
It’s creamy, aromatic and boasts sweet, savoury, butter and mild-spice notes. Almost like a Chinese buttermilk crab gravy, but tastier and less cloying because of the spices used. I find the chicken varuval a bit milder than I’d like it to be but overall, a decent dish. Chicken pieces are tender and the folks at Shobana’s cooked it proper to infuse the chicken and gravy.
Both the fish and vegetable cutlets were delicious. A tad small, but for RM2 per piece, I won’t complain. The vegetable cutlet is lighter with a sweet flavour and crunchier texture, while the fish cutlet is more savoury and deeper flavoured from the mackerel (I think) used.
One of the staff recommended the ikan bilis sambal (RM9 – full portion, RM4.50 – half portion) and it was good stuff. Crispy, spicy and properly caramelised, this went really well with the rice and curry. I regretted not taking the full portion because it’s that good.
According to Jien, the Fish Puttu (RM7.50) is also quite good. In his words, “I’ve never eaten anything like this at a banana leaf rice restaurant. It’s ‘lemak’ and juicy, in dry form.”. He also said that the prawn sambal is worth checking out if you’re big on seafood – apparently, it’s spicy enough, rich and sweet from the caramelisation of the onions.
I’ll be trying those items on my subsequent visit to Shobana’s Kerala Kitchen, that’s for sure. Overall, I liked my experience here – ambiance is comfortable and the staff are ever-ready to assist or top up on curries or side dishes. Definitely a home-y experience and I guess I now prefer this over Sri Ganapathi Mess for now.
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Food: 7.5/10 (pork-free)
Verdict: Try the fish molee, sambal ikan bilis and cutlets. Best to go slightly earlier so you get first dibs, I say. ;)
Shobana’s Kerala Kitchen
357C, Jalan 5/57, Bukit Gasing,
46000 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Tel: 03-7773 0409
Business hours: 8am till 4pm