• Malabar Restaurant

  • (28)
  • White Veg-options
Sri Lankan

Serves fish, vegan options available. Sri Lankan and Asian fusion cuisine. Reported April 2021 to serve fish. Open Tue-Thu 5:00pm-9:30pm, Fri-Sun 12:00pm-2:30pm, 5:00pm-10:00pm. Closed Mon. Sometimes closed at 8:30pm - call ahead to check.

28 Reviews

First Review by groovyvegan


Points +17

08 Jan 2023

Insulting to vegans & vegetarians

Dear vegetarians: watch out! Except vegetable curry, potato dosa, which you can buy better at the kiosk for $12.50 all your food is fried in a deep fryer that fries chicken, calamari, and fish

I am the former owner of Malabar Restaurant.

If you don't believe me, please ask our homeless cook Adam, Brian, Miguel, and Carlos. 10 days ago we had to kill a rat at 8 pm in the empty dining room. Red blood was cleaned up later on.

Adam found rat poop in the rice bin. The new owners threw the rat poop away and cooked the same rice. I found rat poop on the rice lid, behind the pastry table is the main rat hole. They don't have pest control.

Miguell is the rat trapper. Adam is the one who releases them back into the wild. I have seen this. In the night they don't do the leftover dishes so fruit flies. They only sweep the kitchen floor and don't mop it.

If I am lying, you can see the beginning part of the dining room is so greasy it sticks to the shoes. Indian customers complains about potato fillings. When I ran the restaurant, I wrote $1000 worth of produce from Wednesday farmers market. They bring cheap warehouse produce from San Jose. 15% of it is spoiled.

When they bring produce, they transport their dog. One time when myself and Carlos were unloading the car we found dog vomit. They all rise. They put it in the rice cooker put water and heat it up. Bacteria & soggy rice. After their crock pot broke, they keep the dal soup on a two burner with a hand made steam pot.Once the water is over at the end of the night they put it in the microwave.

Bathrooms are cleaned 3x's per week. When I ran the restaurant twice a week I bring in a janitorial company and polish the dining room. I only have seen them mopping the dining room two times after Covid. Dirty metal dish rack and behind that rack is so dirty. Behind the pastry table is dirty. Underneath the work station is dirty. Work plumbing now broken.

Broken table in the storages food are not kept about 6". When I ran the kitchen on Mondays we used to clean the kitchen for 6 hours. If I cannot find anybody to clean it, my 87 year old dad used to come help me do it. Now they clean the kitchen once a month so night for 20 minutes. Baseboards are already dirty. Uncovered food in the walk in. Containers to keep walk in water leakings because I got this walk in 15 years ago. Handwashing sink has no hot water. Cold saucer and chutneys not kept in ice for service.

Updated from previous review on 2022-12-23



Points +3863

28 Nov 2022

Good Southeast Asian Options

The menu is completely online and you'll be asked to scan a QR code to access. I clarified with the staff that the "V" meant vegan, and it turns out that a lot of items could be made vegan upon request.

We started with the Vegetable Pakora and Rosemary and Garlic flatbread, which I was told was made vegan. They did however still include the oil on top but luckily it's easily removed. I loved the flatbread the most and the pakora were great too, although I would've liked a bit more chutney on the side.

For our mains, I ordered their Mango Almond Plantain Curry ($15). My curry was quite tasty although I felt there wasn't as much plantain compared to mango slices. I still very much enjoyed this Sri Lankan curry and my parents liked their salmon too.

Overall, it was a nice dinner at Malabar with what we ordered. In the end, I would've probably subbed the pakora or curry for the vegan Nasi Goreng to add more bang for your buck. Next time I'll have to give that a try,

Pros: Good variety of Southeast Asian options


Points +507

16 Sep 2022

Delicious Indian

Malabar’s has delicious Indian dosas and and fried eggplant

Updated from previous review on 2022-09-16

Pros: Lots of vegetarian & vegan options , Great dosas

Cons: No air conditioning


Points +655

16 Aug 2021

Pretty Good Experience

Had dinner there, enjoyed most of our food. It was easy to tell what was vegan on the menu. The Gobi Manchurian never arrived but we had enough food. Fresh Mango Salad was great, and so was the dosa. The mango curry was so so. The menu says that the mint chutney is not vegan, but the waiter said that it is vegan and the menu has a mistake.


Points +759

01 Aug 2021

Was good, but not anymore

The menu is dominated by fish now. We wouldn't go back.


Points +124

27 Jun 2019

Wow! So amazing. There were so many strong vegan dishes. Save room for Dessert.

I’ve been to so many vegan places, including one with a Michelin star. This is almost as good. If you’re vegan, you have to come here. So incredible. I highly recommend the roti paratha and the dessert. It changes frequently but it’s homemade by the owners wife. Today, it was a eucalyptus coconut ice cream with house made chocolate and rose water. The lotus root Kofta was like a savory chai(not sweet at all) curry. The eggplant dosa and peanut bodi were also very good. I don’t know why I thought it would be a good idea, but I don’t recommend auntie’s noodles. It was yummy, but not nearly as good as the other dishes.

Pros: Lots of amazing vegan options , Vegan items labeled


Points +1499

06 May 2018

Mixed feelings

I visited Malabar last night with two friends so we were able to share some dishes. The menu indicates vegan options with a "v".

We started with two rotis that were tasty. We also had a tofu appetizer, tahu gareng. The menu says it's a fried tofu dish with a tamarind and pineapple glaze but it appeared to be a block of tofu with glaze on it and the tofu was bland inside.

I had my favorite dish from this restaurant, the tempeh la la. The tempeh is crunchy with a sweet sauce. My friends enjoyed their dishes - a giant dosa and steak Diane.

The interior of the restaurant is pretty with candles and open seating. However, on our visit there was live music. The music itself was nice but it was very loud and made it difficult to talk with my friends.

The service it sometimes spotty. My friends' meals were delivered before mine and I had to ask if the waiter had heard my order. It also took some time to get our check.

I came here because my friends wanted to but my past experience has made me a little wary of the place especially with the music being too loud at our visit.

Cons: Music too loud, Inconsistent service


Points +22

22 Mar 2018

Exquisite Vegan Treat

Five stars for flavor, presentation and plant based options! One of my favorite places in Santa Cruz! So worth the money for the quality and quantity. What a treat!


Points +1133

25 Dec 2017

Fantastic and most exquisite!

Malabar is a super cute family-run Sri Lanka Restaurant. Though it’s more modern fusion then authentic, but in a very enjoyable way. They had live peaceful music, and very flavorful meals. We ordered the gobj Manchurian, the butternut squash ravioli in a curry sauce, the truffle mushroom curry dosa, the cheese Khota (Sri Lankan street dish which basically tastes like a pad Thai with cheese), and a cashew vegan ice cream. Highly recommend and will definitely revisit!

Pros: reasonably priced, family run , delicious!

Cons: none!


Points +17

09 Oct 2017


Ate here last night. The food was sooo yummy! Everything we got was fantastic. There is such a variety on the menu of things that sounded delicious we literally could not decide and had the waiter recommend various dishes. The prices were amazingly reasonable. The cauliflower fritters were my favorite, although it was hard to choose since everything was so great. One of the best vegetarian restaurants in Santa Cruz County, by far. I only wish I had found it sooner!

Pros: Taste of Food, Amazing variety of vegetarian choices, Prices


Points +173

01 Jul 2017

You must try this place

My family and I had dinner here just tonight. This was an amazingly good restaurant with creative, delicious food presented beautifully.

Despite (or perhaps in response to) some older reviews here, the menu has vegan and gluten-free items clearly marked. We ordered a total of eight dishes (five appetizers and three mains) and each one was better than the last. I don't know enough about Sri Lankan cuisine to know if this is representative of the cuisine in general or just the chef's touch, but the mix of flavors and textures was just outstanding.

Prices were incredibly reasonable.

We are in town on vacation; we joked that we'd consider moving to Santa Cruz just to be able to eat here regularly. At least I thought we were joking ...

You must must must try this place.

Pros: fresh, creative, good value

Cons: can't really think of any cons


Points +246

03 Nov 2016

Best Tasting Food in Town

I walked around looking for the restaurant, but they moved it a few years back.

The room was very dimly lit and quite romantic. It even had candles lighting the place.

About 30% of the dishes are vegan and are now clearly marked on the menu.

I had the pumpkin and coconut sauce mixed with black curry. Simply divine! One of the best dishes I had in my life.

Pros: Taste of Food, Atmosphere, Quality of Food

Cons: Was $20 for 1 dish and rice


Points +2148

28 Oct 2016

Intriguing cuisine

My dinner here was interesting. The place was dimly lit, perhaps romantic, but a little too dark. I had the tempeh lala. The tempeh was crisp to the point of being too solid. The brown biryani rice was not sufficiently cooked. Otherwise the dish was fine. Service was a little inexperienced, but gave a good effort.


Points +503

19 Jan 2015

Creative vegetarian/vegan Sri Lankan/Indian food

An elegant and creative restaurant, featuring vegetarian and vegan cuisine of Sri Lanka and India (secondarily). The menu features a few traditional, but moreso unique dishes prepared with local ingredients. Drinks are also unique. Coconut roti was really tasty & light. The vegetable dosa was nicely done & light on spice. The khotha roti was like the traditional streetfood I had when I was doing relief work there after the tsunami a decade ago. I loved the caramel & ginger almond shake. Service was fast. It is hard to find creative reasonably priced vegetarian food with flavor & this is one of them.

Pros: creative, unique menu, not too spicy

Cons: server not totally helpful, pastas made with egg


Points +37

15 Jun 2014

Amazing flavor if you are flexible

We ate dinner there last night and enjoyed it immensely for the food! The service was not very friendly or informative but not unfriendly. The menu does not denote vegan vs vegetarian so there may be no vegan food at all as I'm sure there was ghee in most dishes we had. We had samosa and eggplant and naan and some pistachio drink w almond milk and dates. Minimal decor which would be fine if they dusted. The ceiling drape had an ugly stain on it. The bathrooms were clean and prices were reasonable and the place was packed. Would definitely go back but not as a vegan.

Pros: flavor was amazing, price reasonable , clean bathrooms

Cons: no official vegan items, hard to communicate w staff, hard to hear - acoustics were bad


Points +144

29 Dec 2013

Beware Vegans - you are rolling the dice

This restaurant has so many things working against it:

First, the menu does not indicate which items are vegan (except for the drinks). We alerted the server up front that we are vegan but the person didn't not know the menu well enough to recommend vegan choices. The ordering process was very confusing because we were told some items were vegan but after asking clarifying questions the server quickly changed the answer. After being assured that everything we ordered was vegan our dishes arrived made with dairy and egg. When brought to their attention was told "then don't eat it". YUK

For some reason the chef has elected to under season dishes and not provide basic salt/pepper at the tables (or knives for that matter). To complicate things the course timing was just wrong - all the courses came out at the same time and were uncomfortably stacked on plates that were dramatically out of proportion to the tiny table size - one plate alone was almost the length of the entire table.

Too bad, I wanted to like this place but there are too many problems.

My experience at Malabar made me want to wash my mouth with soap.

Pros: good location, ample seating, easy parking

Cons: staff does not know the menu, poor service, bland food


Points +473

26 Sep 2013

amazing food, romantic setting

Lots of amazing vegan options, we had 3 small plates (artichokes with green curry, jalapeño pakoras with chick pea coating and chutneys and salad rolls) all amazing with potato dosa and kafta India entree. All were great. Topped with a lavender chocolate vegan mouse with figs and Concord grapes. Great romantic place. Our new favorite place!
Updated from previous review on Wednesday September 25, 2013

Pros: food, setting, presentation


Points +48

12 Sep 2013


Long tradition of very good food.

Pros: Veggie-oreintation, Reliable

Cons: a little Pricey


Points +3635

15 Feb 2012


This is one of the few nice all-veg places here, and the food is interesting... Sri Lankan-American. The Colombo dumplings in tomato sauce was overly salty. Go for the spicy eggplant/tofu/peanut sauce instead. The hibiscus cooler drink is nice.

Pros: cozy setting, live music some nights

Cons: pricey


Points +14

Mostly Veg
15 Sep 2011

Great place to go with friends

This is one of our favorite restaurants in Santa Cruz. We go there all the time, and we have never been disappointed. It is a great place to take friends, and get lots of dishes to share. The staff always gives great recommendations. Even carnivores love this place. As for vegan/vegetarian, it is mostly vegan. And while it might not be indicated on the menu, they are willing to let you know the few non-vegan dishes. One minor thing, the service is not fast, so don't go for a quick dinner. Lunch is much faster, and is a delicious, inexpensive and quick option.

Pros: Delicious, Healthy, Mostly vegan

Cons: Slow service


Points +79

12 Sep 2011

Nice people and good food

We had been to SC before and hadn't know about Malabar (normally sticking to the Saturn Cafe) so were delighted when the guy at our hotel recommended them as doing good vegan food. The owner/waiter was really nice and very concerned that everything was right for us and even told us which dishes he thought would be better for us. I loved my mango and almonds curry but my partner wasn't so keen on the Nasi Goreng (too much of a mustard taste) and because of this and the fact that the waiter had forgotten to get our drinks, he then proceeded to make us more food on the house including an amazing corn soup and a really nice vegan chocolate mousse until we explained that we were really full and he really didn't have to make it up to us! It is very clear that they really do care about their customers and that their customers like their food. We would recommend this place for the pure Sri Lanka heart and food.

Pros: Friendly, Caring, Understand vegan

Cons: Quite dark, Quite close tables

Hanna Louise

Points +92

25 Jul 2010


This is my favorite restaurant. It is also my carnivore dad's favorite restaurant. Every dish is so rich and interesting and full of flavor. We've been coming here long enough that they remember I'm vegan and tell me if there's something I can't eat or that needs to be altered. You could not imagine our disappointment when they stopped being open for lunch, but dinners are also great.

Pros: amazing food, nice staff


Points +50

24 Jul 2010

Great place for date night

The atmosphere at Malabar is fantastic and very romantic at night. The customer service is great and there is a large number of vegan options. However, if you are vegan I would make sure to ask the server about ingredients since some dishes does contain egg or dairy(egg noodles, goat cheese, etc.). The only complaints that I have is that some of the dishes are very over priced and a few of the things I've tried just plain lacked flavor.

Pros: Healthy, Good Atmosphere, Friendly Staff

Cons: Overpriced, Sometimes bland


Points +23

20 Apr 2009

What was the last dude smoking?

First I talked to the very considerate gentleman who takes the orders. The menu is now all vegan - don't take my word for it, go there.

Now to get started everything on the menu is pretty much the or next to the best tasting food I have ever encountered - personal bias of course. The portions are good and while the staff isn't "friendly", they get your orders to you quickly, like a few minutes after sitting down.

This restaurant is the best vegetarian restaurant bar none in Santa Cruz and likely puts up a good fight against others in the larger bay area. I don't want to give out cows like they were nothing, but this is definately at least a 4 out of 5 restaurant, and because of the very very reasonable price, and the fact that the food is so exotically good I'm going to put 5 stars.

Pros: tastey, healthy, very reasonable

Cons: no home delivery, not open for breakfast


Points +20

14 Dec 2008

Wish I could enjoy it more without potential guilt

First off I have to state my one major complaint about Malabar, for a vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurant, those two words are not mentioned anywhere, especially where it is most important to me, on the menu! I'm a very strict vegan who just won't accept any animal products entering into his body and there is a certain amount of accountability of the restaurant that is lost when the items on the menu do not state that they are vegetarian or vegan.
I normally don't even eat at such "veg friendly" restaurants unless they specifically make known exactly how cruelty free their food items are. However tonight was a special occasion for a friend who wished to eat there so I joined her and some other friends in eating there.
And so tonight my greatest fear in vegan dining came true. I have eaten at Malabar a few times before, almost always ordering the same exact dish because I was assured that it was vegan. Only tonight to have the waitress insist that the dish I had previously consumed at other visit's had eggs in the noodles.
This is unacceptable!
I understand waiters and waitresses and even cooks can make mistakes, but this is why I stay away from such establishments that would even have the leniency for such mistakes by including eggs and dairy in their kitchen.

Malabar, please indicate which items can be made vegan and which ones cannot by having it written on your menu. Thank you.

With that being said, the atmosphere was nice, the waitress was as helpful as could be, the food arrived within a good amount of time considering there were like 14 of us there. And the actual vegan dish (I hope) I got which was tempeh goreng, was delicious.
This is a great restaurant for vegetarians or an animal eating friend of a vegetarian who "just likes the taste too much to be vegetarian", but vegan's be super cautious upon ordering.

Pros: Service

Cons: Lack of vegan/vegetarian indication


Points +945

18 Nov 2008

had take out

wanted to sit in since it looks really comfy but we want to enjoy the sun on the beach. next time. food is good.


Points +23

21 Jul 2008

Most Creative and Unusual Vegan Fare

I've eaten at Malabar twice now---both lunch and dinner. WOW. Their menu is incredible! What unique dishes and flavor combinations! It's so refreshing to have Asian fare that is not the standard Thai, Indian, or Chinese. Lunch is an amazing bargain. You can have great variety for $7.50! Dinner is more expensive but still reasonable for what you get. I personally loved it.

Pros: unusual food, delicious, nice ambience

Cons: none

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