Sri Lankan food is little known on the Gold Coast. But that won’t be the case for long if Rusiru Wijesundara has anything to do with it.
Early in 2021, Ru opened the Gold Coast’s only Sri Lankan restaurant, Gara Yaka in Nerang. Cornered between the M1’s Exit 71 and Broadbeach-Nerang Road, Gara Yaka is tucked away in a small enclave of shops beside a service station.
The restaurant is named after the benevolent demon Gara Yaka, who became a god through his good deeds. Even though his face looks gruesome, Gara Yaka is used in ceremonies to dispel evil spirits and to bring good fortune.
Ru tells us that he was driven by a passion to share the unique flavours of Sri Lanka’s food with Australians. To do this he’s attempting to strike a balance between heat and spice.
Sri Lanka’s cuisine is dominated by its landscape. Its fertile soil produces a vast array of herbs, spices, vegetables, rice and fruit. The surrounding ocean offers up a wide variety of seafood. Rice and curry are staple foods in the Sri Lankan diet, with coconut often used in cooking and dishes ranging from subtly spiced to fiery.
To start our Ceylonese journey, we begin with one of Ru’s generous entrée dishes, stuffed pan rolls, which we wholeheartedly recommend. Filled with curried chicken, fish or vegetables, the rolls are crumbed and deep fried to achieve a crusty exterior. These rolls would be perfect to reheat as starters to a curry meal served later at your house, or as a snack if you need a quick meal. We’ll be back to try the roti pockets another time.
Also on the menu are famous Sri Lankan street food dishes such as the Kotthu Roti (roti, vegetables and cheese chopped and tossed together with a bang of spice, made ‘to the beat’ of a drum and topped with a fried egg). You’ll find speciality dishes such as the Ceylon Mix (a Chinese Ceylonese fried rice fusion dish) and Pineapple Fried Rice (caramelised pineapple and onion tossed with rice and spicy Sri Lankan spices) on the menu. Yakas (your choice of protein caramelised with onions, peppers and three different types of chilli) is a great dish to share beside a Kotthu Roti or Ceylon Mix. Spicy as you choose and aromatic, these are dishes to love.
The bros are even making burgers, but honestly? Our heart lies in trying what’s different.
Look out for specials that will emerge as news of the Ru’s fiery goodness spreads!
Personally, I’m living in memory of a deliciously aromatic Sri Lankan curry I enjoyed many years ago; a curry seared in memory as one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever eaten. Come winter, will I hit up Gara Yaka to make it for me? You bet!
Gara Yaka, 2 Riverview Rd, Nerang (off exit 71). Ph: 0406 030 852 Open: Tues 4pm – 9pm, Wed – Sat 12noon – 9pm