Kotuwa Lamb Shank 2

Kotuwa – A Spicy Sri Lankan Affair in Singapore!

Kotuwa’s chef-owner Rishi Naleendra already had a fan in me when he was at MACA at the Tanglin Post Office building, way back then in 2015.

His usage of Australian indigenous ingredients in the Asian-inspired dishes showed his multicultural background and he continued his successful debut with Cheek by Jowl, where his five-spice caramel-sauced duck confit and waffles made a regular appearance on Singapore foodies’ IG feeds.

The restaurant closed and became Cheek Bistro, which eventually rebranded as a wine bar, Fool, during the pandemic.

But my favourite Naleendra-helmed culinary experience has to be one of the best fine dining restaurants in Singapore – Cloudstreet, which has two Michelin stars. It was also just awarded the No.26 spot on the 2023  Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

Back to Kotuwa, though.

It has taken me a while to check out Kotuwa, but I finally made it there this year for birthday lunch with the family.

Of course, my mother who is very familiar with the cuisines of South Asia, and who has a penchant for lumping everyone of South Asian descent as “Indian”, had surveyed the menu beforehand and said, “I think this is Sinhalese food, not Indian.”

Well, I enlightened her that the chef is of Sri Lankan heritage, not Indian, and Kotuwa predominantly features the cuisine of his culture.

Drinks at Kotuwa
Maru ($26) – Arrack, Dark Rum, Coconut and Banana.

Cocktail of choice in hand, I was given the important task of ordering for the table. Of course, I called for the assistance of the lovely manager and asked for recommendations.

Mutton Balls and Crab Cutlet

Mutton rolls ($16) are a popular Sri Lankan speciality, I remember having them at other Sri Lankan places. They are deep-fried balls, usually heavy on the spices, which I love.

Similarly, Crab Cutlets ($16). Again, Kotuwa’s version is heavily-spiced with a generous use of pepper that suited me fine but left a couple at the table coughing.

Sri Lankan feast at Kotuwa.

Kotuwa Lamb Shank Appam

The mains were a hit. The Lamb shank ($42) in Sri Lankan red curry was so tender and tasty.

As for the fish, the Malu Baduma ($36) which was a crispy jade perch with turmeric leaf curry and pomelo, we managed to leave nothing but the bones behind.

Fried Jade Perch

“Any veggies?” the server had asked during orders, reminding us about this forgotten food group. So I ordered the token veggie dish to make us feel like we were getting some veg in. Don’t get me wrong, the Wattakka Kalu Pol ($18) – butternut pumpkin cooked in blackened coconut gravy, was good.

To round it all off, we had two little side dishes – the Pol Sambol ($8) which is a grated coconut with chilli and lime, and Wambatu Moju ($8), spiced eggplant, pickled in vinegar. Both were somewhat similar to what my mother makes at home.

My Watalappam lesson thanks to Kotuwa.

There are just two desserts on the menu – the Watalappam Tart and the Buffalo Curd Parfait, both at $16 each.

Buffalo Curd Parfait
The Buffalo curd parfait was nice, I mean, it’s a parfait, can’t go too wrong, right?

I learned something new about watalappam. I recall eating this sweet, spiced custard during Eid gatherings, and always thought it was an Indian Muslim dessert. Curious about its presence in Kotuwa’s menu, plus I wanted to be sure of its origin, I googled.

And found out that watalappam is widely believed to be a dish brought to Sri Lanka by Sri Lankan Malays who had moved from Indonesia when large parts of coastal Sri Lanka were under Dutch control.

It is also recognised to be part of a traditional Eid-Al-Fitri (end of Ramadan and fasting period) meal. I guess I wasn’t that far off with my recollections after all.

In any case, the version at Kotuwa isn’t the traditional, very eggy version I used to eat. It’s better thanks to the tart pastry base and the jaggery layer and pistachio and candied oranges.

Kotuwa Featured image

Overall, it was a good meal at Kotuwa. While there are similarities naturally with Tamil and Malayalee dishes, there are little differences that made it an interesting meal for me. Coupled with the friendly service, I’d say give it a try!


Address: 2 Dickson Road, Wanderlust Hotel, Singapore 209494

Contact: info@kotuwa.com.sg, (65) 6970 7838

Website: https://kotuwa.com.sg/

Opening Hours:

Wed – Sun (dinner only), 6pm to 10pm

Sat & Sun, Lunch: 12pm to 3pm, dinner: 6pm to 10pm

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