26 Aug Araliya, St Kilda
A Hawthorn stalwart for 30 years, Araliya was sadly forced to relocate due to redevelopment of its old home. Head chef Sam Wedande is trained in Western cuisine and brings a contemporary twist to Sri Lankan cuisine, such as modern twists on street foods like hoppers. Whilst I’m not too familiar with Sri Lankan cuisine, I’m told that common spices included coriander, cumin, fennel, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves.
For its new digs in St Kilda, the interior was designed to match its vision for the menu. A dark, modern look features textured walls, a cocktail bar, banquette seating and ottomans.
We kick things off with some cocktail samplers – a refreshing basil mojito, and a special concoction for the day made with raspberry, chilli and chocolate.
A selection of starters soon follow. There’s steamed cabbage rolls with a soft and creamy banana blossom and quinoa filling topped with chilli jam, simple and clean-tasting beetroot-cured salmon with Sichuan pickled cucumber and capers, and the intriguing hopper filled with scallops. A hopper is a fermented rice flour pancake, typically found as street food. Often found on the side to accompany other things, Sam has used it as a vehicle for the scallops, which have been flavoured with lime leaves and light spices including lemongrass. It’s a handsome and tasty dish.
A parade of mains then flows from the kitchen. We are served a variety of vegetable dishes including green beans with cashew nuts, creamy lentils with baby spinach (which I particularly enjoy), refreshing beetroot and turnip with curry leaves, and Asian greens with red rice for some nutty crunch. To go with all these we have both saffron and regular white rice and some roti.
A number of meat dishes come next. The Araliya Chicken is made with tender Milawa Chicken, and flavoured with cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. The pork belly is also rather popular. Juicy and moreish pork is coated in tamarind peanuts to a form a sort of crust, and served with rockmelon and pickled papaya on the side. My personal favourite is the crusted fish with saltbush, mandarin, cucumber, gambodge and tamarind.
Three different desserts wrap up our dinner. First to arrive is the decadent and rich milk chocolate mousse and sweet potato custard with salted caramel and hazelnut crumble. The sweet potato custard is thick, and goes surprisingly well with the chocolate. Steamed rectangles of coconut custard are served alongside an intensely flavoured but refreshing banana sorbet. For something quite different, the roasted pineapple dessert is flavoured with chilli and ginger. A large quenelle of basil sorbet is perched on top and has to be eaten quickly before it melted. It’s a very enjoyable, light dessert.
Dinner at Araliya was certainly an eye-opening experience, and St Kilda locals are lucky to have such an experienced chef cooking up these delights right at their doorstep. A brunch menu is on the cards, so look out for it soon!
Disclaimer: I was invited to dine at Araliya as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way
157 Fitzroy Street
St Kilda, VIC, 3185
(03) 9818 5120