Coast by Kayra brings the bounty of the world's seas to KL with a sumptuous Keralan splash

January 23, 2024

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Blue swimmer crabs from Pahang, green lobsters from Sabah. Red snappers from Kedah and jumbo clams from Perak. Ireland's Gallagher Speciales oysters, Bangladesh's giant freshwater prawns and Indonesia's first-grade tuna. Pacific cod from Chile, XL scallops from the USA and Avruga herring caviar from Holland.

Scouring the seas from the Straits of Malacca to the Atlantic Ocean, Coast by Kayra makes waves as KL's new wharf for fresh fish, mouth-watering molluscs and the most captivating crustaceans, served with a sumptuous splash of Keralan confidence.

Now open in The Starhill, Coast is the sea-to-plate spinoff of Bangsar's loved-and-lauded Kayra restaurant, honouring the Malabar nautical heritage of India's southern Kerala state, true to the roots of Kayra's founder Meriam Alfonso and executive chef Sal Sabeel.

A meal here is a richly nuanced voyage through Kerala's palm-lined shores and potent spices.

Generations-old Keralan recipes such as chuttuli, moilee and pollichathu come compellingly alive in styles never before seen in Malaysia. Squid and Spanish mackerel surface with the sultry heat of open-flame charcoal grilling. A vibrant variety of biryani is blanketed with a boat's bounty of whole groupers, tiger prawns and green mussels.

If you're a seafood enthusiast, set sail for Coast and cast your anchor at one of KL's most adventurous new restaurants of 2024. And if you're a longtime lover of Kayra, rest easy that Coast isn't coasting on Kayra's fame; this is a fully formed restaurant that's shipshape from the start, dishing out its own distinctive perspective on the Keralan experience. 

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Our city is far from the closest beaches, but Coast brings a soothing sense of the sea to The Starhill, with its azure blue backdrop amid a stream of water-inspired features. Birds of paradise command the corners, while Meriam's family's personal black-and-white photographs of Kerala and its people line the walls, leading from the main dining space to a bar and lounge, flanked by an elegant private room with exquisite chandeliers, mirrors and lamps.

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Coast furnishes a full view of chef Sal and his crew, coolly handling the heat in the kitchen, taking charge of tandoors and charcoal grills to do justice to seafood, meat and breads. Their skilled patience ensure that seven-star Sandakan groupers, Pulau Ketam mud crabs and Norwegian salmon emerge with their delicate flavours and delectable textures intact, laced with whole Indian spices milled in Malaysia, never too charred or overcooked.

Fun fact: Coast takes pride in precisely pinpointing the provenance of its Malaysian produce, trusting in sustainable sources. For example, its lobsters and tiger prawns hail from Semporna, its clams from Bagan Datuk, while its squid swims in from Endau Rompin. 

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Multiple expeditions are essential to explore Coast's enticements.

Inspired equally by Kerala's seas and streets, Mini Appams beckon first, beautifully featuring house-fermented rice pancakes with tiger prawns, served like shells on a sea shore. Dahi Puri Shooters showcase a scintillating crab rasam, crowned with crispy rice shells stuffed with crab meat. Dosa Tacos bring together Trivandrum and Tijuana, with 'tortillas' of raw rice and lentil shells plumply packed with grilled spiced fish, sev and kitchen-blended sour cream.

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Shellfish from the reef are the star of the small plates.

Ignite your tastebuds with Gunpowder Scallops - succulently seared XL scallops, showered with caviar, spiced lentil gunpowder, saffron turmeric sauce, pappad crackers and curry leaf pearls. Then, munch on Kallumakkaya Mussels - a contemporary concoction of char-grilled green mussels with green herb spiced butter and prawn chamandhi, scattered with fish skin crisps and tomato shallot gravy.

Crustaceans and fish also shine, in colourful creations of Crab Putu (blue swimmer crab masala, a marvellous match for a steamed rice flour cake with curry sauce and chilli oil) and Tuna Mango Pachadi Tartelettes (Coast's closest thing to hors d'oeuvres, with tuna tartare layered with creamy mango mustard curd and crunchy arrowhead cubes in pastry shells).

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Moving merrily to main courses, the Snapper Chuttulli pays tribute to a Keralan classic, reinterpreted with Coast's own flair. A red snapper fillet is pan-seared with an oil-free rub of roast shallots and fennel, laid by a lagoon of tangy pulliserry sauce that blends ripe mangoes and coconut with yoghurt, rounded out with roasted brinjal and okra.

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The Lobster Ulartiyath is Coast's homage to Kerala's craft of first slow-roasting, then sautéing fish or meat. The restaurant transforms a rustic household preparation into a striking show-stopper - a whole green lobster is our table's crimson centrepiece, its crusty exterior concealing lusciously firm flesh, flavoured with dry tomato shallot masala, coconut slivers, fenugreek and mustard, enhanced with the decadent depth of lobster bisque.

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Come to Coast with the hunger of a starving seafarer - the Seafood Biryani is one of KL's mightiest portions of biryani, strictly for sharing. 

Blue Swimmer crab meat, tiger prawns, green mussels and squid make a captivating catch, harbouring a fragrant substrate of long-grain basmati, alluringly aromatic with whole spices and fried onions, upliftingly buoyed by green apple raita and mango pickle. Biryani buffs, bookmark this maritime masterwork, more spectacular than even a Spanish seafood paella.

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For customers who crave meat, Coast surprises us by being more than a port for pescatarians. 

Skip the steakhouses and slide here for the Beef & Pal Kappa, the Keralan equivalent of steak and mash - a prime cut of Black Angus striploin is rubbed with Keralan dried spices, then char-grilled for Maillard magic, rounded out with creamy gravy, baby asparagus and smoothly mashed tapioca, a moreish side dish that reputedly rivals rice in popularity throughout Kerala.

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Don't duck the duck: Coast's Duck Inji Puli promises poultry pleasure in this spice-rubbed, oven-roasted duck breast, submerged in a sweet-sour pool of pickled ginger with tamarind, its subtly sharp tang in alchemy with the meat's jaggery marinade to evoke maple and molasses. 

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Championing chicken, check out Coast's Chicken Kebab, chunkily cooked in the tandoor for fowl-infatuated comfort fare - thick, tender and tasty with roast gravy sauce and a raw salad of papaya and mango.

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Snacks and sides include jackfruit koftas, addictively jazzed up with spinach and corn in toasted breadcrumbed patties with cashew tomato gravy; Kayra's famed appam, the gluten-free thin pancake with crackly frills, crafted with fermented rice and coconut milk, made decadent at Coast with a golden duck egg; and an entire ensemle of tandoor-cooked naan and flatbreads, complete with house chutneys, grape pachadi, and green apple with pomegranate raita. 

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Coast is a seafood restaurant in spirit and soul, but our heart can't help falling in lust with its sweet temptations. These plated desserts - worthy of a wondrous Parisian patisserie - deserve a full feature of their own, laced lightly and lovingly with Indian inflections.

Irresistible indulgences include the Paradise Parfait (mango semifreddo with coconut and lemongrass sago parfait, mango passionfruit sorbet and buckwheat crumb), Cocoa-Nut (Malaysian single-origin Kota Marudu 70% dark chocolate with jackfruit ice cream, jackfruit calamansi sauce and coconut sponge), Citrus Sugee Tart (vegan orange pastry tart with semolina sponge, vegan creme anglaise and raspberry ganache), Coast Cheesecake (cheese cremeux with sable biscuit, mixed berry compote, salted jaggery caramel, cinnamon granola and fresh fruits), Falooda Fool (vanilla panna cotta with rose cardamom ice cream, kataifi tart, fruits, butterfly pea and basil seeds) and a time-honoured staple of Sweet Appam (fermented rice pancake with salted gula Melaka and coconut milk).

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Come for the cuisine, linger for the cocktails, also casting a sensuous spell with indelible Indian inspirations. An aperitif of the Spiced Peach Bellini (Prosecco with Coast's own-crushed white peach puree, cloves and peach bitter) paves the path for creative concoctions like the Masala Negroni (London dry gin with white vermouth, gajardo bitter radicale and masala spices), Whisky Rasam (Jameson Black Barrel with savoury-spicy rasam vermouth, clarified tomato juice and vinegar), and Mullappoo-tini (Stolichnaya vodka with grapefruit, gajardo bitter radicale, lime, sugar syrup and jasmine foam).

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Lot G03-G05, Ground Floor, Starhill Gallery, Jalan Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur. 
Daily, 11:30am-11pm. Tel: 017-215-7264