Chop chop

David Stephens speaks to the newest group of Kottu Kings to open shop, Pics by M.A Pushpa Kumara.

Nestled alongside the busy Thimbirigasaya road, Dino’s, a compact sparsely decorated kottu shop with a barbecue grill outside, could easily be missed amidst the street’s heavy traffic and activity. Yet once its kitchen bursts into life with the cacophony of culinary utensils, and its distinct aromas waft towards the road nearby, a curious and hungry crowd steadily begins to gather.

Dino’s, which started its operations in June of this year, recently had a major overhaul of its menu, which now gives prominence to one of Sri Lanka’s most loved and treasured dishes, Kottu. The cozy shop now offers its customers over 15 different varieties of the chopped up rotti, from the standard egg or vegetable kottu to the more exotic barbecued beef or devilled cuttlefish kottu.

To also cater to clients who may want something different, there is a list of barbecued meats along with vegetable, chicken and fish fried rice. “We saw all the other Kottu shops out there and realized, as people who like to eat, that there weren’t any suitable places around. So we decided we wanted to come up with something that was unique, delicious and affordable to everyone,” divulges Gayshan Sirimanne, part of the triumvirate that founded Dino’s.

His other two colleagues, Nilanka Pieris and Zahran Zavahir, like Geshan who works in the apparel industry, have regular day jobs that share nothing in common whatsoever with what they do from 7 to 9 pm every day.

Nilanka, employed in the IT field, can be seen busily walking between the shop and the grill, exuberantly shepherding customers in, while Zaharan, who works in advertising, is most often behind the counter, supervising the work in the kitchen and handling orders.

“The whole decision was taken at the spur of the moment, cooking had always been one of our hobbies so we wanted to start something that we would have fun doing,” says Geshan, who genially adds,” We love eating so we knew what type of food would please customers.”

Nilanka discloses that their previous menu had a whole range of Sri Lankan foods, such as Pittu and Stringhoppers, but they found the maintenance of such a diverse cuisine very taxing.

“It was hard to keep doing that because there were too many things to focus on. So we decided to go with kottu. Additionally we also thought up the idea of a barbecue grill because there is no good barbecue joint in the area, but we wanted to make it reasonably priced so that anyone can walk in and buy what they want,” Nilanka explains.

Careful sampling, of both the prawn and mutton kottu on offer, unveils a spicy combination that kicks your taste buds to life. While in the case of the barbecued lamb, the colourful salad that compliments the dish is a standout, offering a sweet and chilled contrast to the flavourful meat it is served with.

All these finely executed delicacies are a testament to the expertise of the food outlet’s dedicated cooks, starting with the head chef of sorts, Aponso. Aponso has roughly 25 years experience cooking in Oman as well as several locally reputed institutions.

Nilanka says that aside from selling food over the counter to customers, Dino’s also does delivery and catering. He says that growth and expansion are two likely options that linger not far on the shop’s horizon.

“In the future we hope to open up a dessert counter and maybe put in a few tables to give the place more of a restaurant setting. Right now the main difficulty is finding really good cooks to work for us, once that is sorted we are thinking about opening more outlets in Nugegoda and Rajagiriya next year.”

Dino’s is located down Thimbirigasaya Road, opposite Fife road and can be contacted 117234734.The shop‘s delivery hours are between 12pm to 9pm. For more information go to Dino’s Facebook page.

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