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Sep 27, 2011 04:23 AM

Kuala Lumpur - The MOST popular banana leaf restaurant in town

This Indian eatery is singularly the most popular banana leaf restaurant I'd ever seen - crowded at all hours when it remained open, filled with hordes of KL diners - Malays, Chinese & Indians alike - greedily stuffing themselves from banana leaves piled with high mounds of rice, surrounded by various curries, pickles and condiments. Waiters come by with gallon-sized silver pails of various types of curry gravy (fish, chicken, dhal, mutton), from which they'd ladle in copious amounts onto your rice, soaking the grains thru, and almost over-flooding the banana leaves.

I ordered some spicy, red-tinged fried chicken masala to compliment my otherwise vegetarian meal, plus a little plastic container filled with spicy-sour "rasam" soup. Crisp pappadums were nice, and so were the spiced string beans, carrots & squash. The cucumber raita was too liquefied, and so was the dhal curry gravy. Deep-fried vegetarian pakoras were oily and heavy, although admittedly tasty.

Drink-wise, never, ever miss the "teh tarik" - a "pulled' milk tea, Malaysian-style. The "pulling", whereby the tea was alternately poured from one large metal cup into another, resulted in a mug of milk tea with a frothy head.

Foodwise, I failed to understand why Nirwana Maju overshone other Indian eateries around the neighborhood - Devi's (the former "darling"), Saravana Bhavan, Anjappar, Lotus Pesona and at least half a dozen other similar spots. I guess people flock to the a place with a queue, and Nirwana Maju is certainly the flavor of the day.

But "teh tarik"-wise, theirs was simply the best I'd ever, and I do mean EVER, had: thick, strong and not too sweet.

Address details
Restoran Sri Nirwana Maju
43 Jalan Telawi 3
Bangsar Baru
59100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2287 8445

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  1. That's interesting - Bangsar Baru/Jalan Telawi area having THAT many Indian/banana-leaf eateries?

    Any comments regarding comparisons with Brickfields?

    2 Replies
    1. re: huiray

      Personally, I think Brickfields is so "yesterday" now ;-)

      Bangsar, from what I understood from the locals here, has always been an area popular with KL's Indian middle-class & professionals. The earliest community here were former railway personnel (who're mostly ethnic Indians) - many moved to Bangsar & stayed along Lorong Maarof & other tree-lined streets there. Very nice neighborhood indeed.

      In the 1990s, Bangsar (around the Jalan Telawi 2 & 3 area) became ultra-hip & trendy, and foreign expats, tourists and party-going locals flooded to its bars & chic eateries. At its peak, Jalan Telawi was the in-place, to see & be seen.

      Then, came a spate of robberies & petty crime (snatch-thefts) which blighted Bangsar's appeal. Other dining/drinking hotspots popped up in KL (Changkat Bukit Bintang, Mont Kiara, etc) and many trendy bars/restaurants moved away from Bangsar. In their place, a number of Indian restaurants popped up. By the time I moved to stay in KL this year, Bangsar has already got a reputation as THE place for the Indian in-crowd.

      Today, I prefer Bangsar for good Indian food, rather than Brickfields, which seemed tired & worn, and lacked the charm of Singapore or Penang's Little India districts.

      1. re: klyeoh

        Aha. Thanks for the explanation. Yes, we had previously talked about the Jalan Telawi area being the in-spot some years ago followed by its decline; as well as the spiffed-up but Disney-fied Brickfields which didn't have that much in way of good eating nowadays - but you filled in more details here. Interesting. I'd also forgotten about the old Indian presence in Bangsar, but also had no knowledge of the current situation.

    2. Back in Sri Nirwana Maju this evening for their "Roti Canai" (India: paratha; Singapore: roti prata).

      Sri Nirwana Maju's version was fluffy, flaky, impossibly greaseless ... for the ghee-oiled bread fried on a griddle. In other words, it was amazingly good! The roti canai has a slightly sweet taste (wonder if the chef's Bengali), and was served with a simple vegetarian dhal curry which also contained a soft-cooked tomato.

      1 Reply
      1. re: klyeoh

        Photo of the roti canai, served on a banana leaf:

      2. Okay - I need to admit I was wrong when I questioned the popularity of Sri Nirwana Maju back in Sep 2011.

        Just went back there again this evening and I have to acknowledge that Sri Nirwana Maju's version of the twice-cooked biiter-gourd (first sliced thinly and crisp-fried, then stir-fried with spices and other tasty bits) was the freshest, crispiest and tastiest I'd had in KL (Lotus Pesona's was the worst).

        Its aromatic chicken curry was another reason for me to revise my opinion. That, and Sri Nirwana Maju's amazing "teh tarik" (frothy tea) which was fragrant and not-too-sweet.

        3 Replies
        1. re: klyeoh

          That looks so enticing. Wish I had a banana-leaf place around me!

          BTW, I assume you used your fingers here to eat. Have you ever seen this thread on CH? :-)

          1. re: huiray

            I'd not seen that thread yet - very interesting.

            I'm actually not comfortable eating Indian food (or Malay food) with my (right) hand, and normally revert to the norm of dessert spoon & fork. I actually preferred to eat with fork only, even for rice.

            During a lunch at the Mavalli Tiffin Rooms in Bangalore a few years ago (it was one of the most popular Udupi-style Indian vegetarian restaurants in Southern India), I had to use my hand as no fork or spoon was provided. The funny thing was, I had this compulsive urge to go & wash my hand every 10 minutes or so, because I couldn't stand the "soiled" feeling. And each time I got up to go to the washroom, my local Indian dining companions would look at me with surprise and asked "Are you done?!". I'd reply that I just wanted to rinse my hand but would be back to continue with the meal. Considering that the US$4 lunch ran into nearly 20 courses/food items, I think I went to the washrooms about 4 times, feeling rather embarrassed each time I did so.

            1. re: klyeoh

              Aren't we Eurasians a strange bunch? I'm also more amenable to fork & spoon - my Portuguese-Malaccan-Indian-what-have-you eating habits which sometimes require using hands (curried crab, fish moolie, etc). I should think your Peranakan-Anglo-Chinese-Thai cultural mix will also require eating with hands at some point.

              I still laugh when I recall the way Yul Brynner's character in "The King and I" was shown eating with chopsticks. We all know that Thais have always eaten with their hands, and they were the first people in South-East Asia who started the fork-and-spoon eating style which is emulated by us in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and elsewhere subsequently. No one, except the Chinese living in Siam in those days would deign to wield chopsticks!

        2. Interestingly, the banana leaf meal I had at Devi's Corner, barely 200 yards from the hyper-popular, ever-packed Sri Nirwana Maju, actually tasted *much* better!

          The set meal came with crisp-fried bittergourd fritters, a super-spicy okra-onion-tomato curry, a rich coconut-infused potato relish, , and dhal & chopped greens curry - all very good. I ordered an additional side-dish: masala chicken curry - it was delicious, but enough chilli-spice-heat to make me break into a sweat. The waiter came by to ladle a mixture of fish curry and crab curry gravies onto my mound of steamed rice. Intoxicatingly delicious!

          Address details
          Devi's Corner
          69, Jalan Telawi 3
          59100 Kuala Lumpur
          Tel: +603-2282-7591