You’ll be forgiven for thinking Malaysian restaurant Nadodi is a brand new establishment. Despite having been a coveted part of Kuala Lumpur’s culinary landscape for over five years now, the restaurant is buzzing with the energy associated with new launches and ventures.
Settled a 10-minute drive from the city centre, Nadodi pays tribute to early South Indian and Sri Lankan immigrants in Malaysia. Led by dynamic young chef Yavhin, the team includes chef Pradeek from Colombo, who specialises in the intricate spice blends used in the kitchen, and chef Sugeen from Penang, who has a keen talent for textural innovation and is responsible for the restaurant’s signature rasam.
Authenticity is less a buzzword and more an inextricable way of working within the restaurant’s walls. The chefs have deep knowledge about and intimate experience with the ingredients, techniques and flavours of the cuisine they showcase. Or perhaps, one should say cuisines—since South Indian and Sri Lankan cooking is as similar as it is distinct. Curious about the differences? The passionate service team at Nadodi will walk you through the origin stories of everything you eat—from the spices in each dish to the garnish on your cocktail.
The dishes at Nadodi may be described as transformative yet unmistakably familiar, particularly if you grew up in or around a South Asian household. A trio of appetisers come out with plenty of wow factor. The most evocative mouthful is a finely wrapped pesarattu thosai cone, loaded with a scoop of potato masala and dressed with shards of curry leaf. Within its one bite, the dish manages to tell the story of a morning spent in a South Indian kitchen—thosai crisping up over fire while spices temper on the stove, releasing their tell-tale fragrance.
Changing seasonally, each of Nadodi’s degustation menus offer a melange of refined dishes which are nostalgic and imaginative at the same time. Two standouts from the menu I tried featured seafood front and centre: a well-spiced crab curry and a cut of Japanese black cod. What set these dishes apart—and frankly, elevated them—was the clever inclusion of South Indian and Sri Lankan elements.
The playfully named Cut the Crab is a layered island enveloped in a savoury crab curry. At the very top, you’ll find juicy lumps of lobster and crab meat, while the bottom layer is a steamed fermented savoury rice cake, better known to most as the South Indian breakfast staple, idli. Meanwhile, the cod dish swims in a spectacular dashi-laced rasam.
The restaurant’s signature rasam shows up in a myriad of creative ways. It is difficult to pick just one favourite, but an easy hit is the rasam-based cocktail, where the second press of rasam broth is combined with vodka and distilled into a savoury tipple. Dangerously potent and delicious, it is just one of the many conceptual concoctions on the restaurant’s beverage menu.
The regional modern Indian restaurant revolution in recent years has signalled a greater appetite for traditional South Asian flavours—reinterpreted through a contemporary lens. When Indian and Sri Lankan plates are presented with the culinary rigour previously reserved for Western cuisines, it not only transforms them for audiences new and old, but also pays a fitting tribute to these eon-old food cultures that have endured everything from colonisation to famine.
Food has long formed the very core of joy in brown cultures. Recipes pass through generations, guarded like valuable heirlooms. With Nadodi—and the healthy number of Singaporean patrons crossing the border to visit the restaurant and enjoy its inventive yet authentic offerings—it is amply clear that no matter how far the nomad wanders, he will always find his way to a meal that reminds him of home.
Find out more about Nadodi here.