Be it, Sri Lankan, Indian or Chinese cuisine, Devanshi Mody takes a look at Colombo restaurants that dish out the best Golden Dragon: Perhaps Colombo’s most woefully underrated restaurant. I must confess I long avoided it, fearing “Lankanised” Chinese cuisine. However, that Master Chef Ping is from a small provincial Chinese town, not Beijing or [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

A plateful of ethnic chic


Be it, Sri Lankan, Indian or Chinese cuisine, Devanshi Mody takes a look at Colombo restaurants that dish
out the best

Golden Dragon:

Perhaps Colombo’s most woefully underrated restaurant. I must confess I long avoided it, fearing “Lankanised” Chinese cuisine. However, that Master Chef Ping is from a small provincial Chinese town, not Beijing or Shanghai, and doesn’t speak much English suggests he hasn’t interacted with locals enough to adjust recipes to suit the local palate. Incentive to venture forth. 

Szechuan style chicken at Golden Dragon

Chef comes out to greet but spares me the prolonged self-promotion many chefs unleash because here language impedes and anyway Chef would rather let his food do the talking.

And its oratorical skills are grand. Beside soft-spoken dim sum, mushrooms pleasing like a nasal rendition together with well-toned tofu and remarkably ungreasy deep-fried vegetables, crisp and confident like a well-elocutioned voice.

For mains, Chef insists I try pumpkin fried rice, a speciality of his hometown, despite my preferences for the unadventurous “Chinese fried rice” (as if every region of this vast country fried rice homogenously). Well, this pumpkin fried rice is so delicious I’ve razed half the dish without accompaniments, until it’s suggested Chef’s other efforts too need acknowledgment and surely when water chestnuts come swinging in a customised cradle-like contraption.

These water chestnuts have the crunch of crystal, its clarity of taste. Flavours of dishes range from leanly tempered greens in a sauce mild like duck down to aubergine or bean curd in sauces as hot as a fire-breathing dragon. A dragon worth its weight in gold!

Steak & Grill House:

Has infused flashes of ethnic chic into its menu. However, Executive Chef Krawage can be prevailed upon by pre-arrangement to tailor a designer Sri Lankan cuisine menu. This is a suited and booted affair of multiple courses. Ethnic constructs present on fine china and you deploy silver to pick at a delicate amuse bouche or tuck into little parcels of jak fruit in a frill of herbed reductions.

Chef Bai Ping

Chef Sujoy Gupta: Giving Latitude a taste of Bengali delicacies


Temptation is to overdo the most fabulous garlic bread you’re likely to get in Colombo, but beware what follows is ample and might include a mound of spiced soya cutlet, a shot of curried coconut milk lying beside a jazzy berry shooter, a small jar of curry fringed by a sliver of Colombo’s best brinjal moju. And all this is punctuated by an extraordinary sorbet made with tomato of a curious kind. Finish off with miniature versions of traditional sweetmeats. But do book in advance now that Chef K is busy orchestrating feasts for Bollywood-style “destination weddings” the Taj has suddenly become famous for.


If the annual Chettinad Festival has hitherto enjoyed unrivalled popularity amongst ethnic food fests then the inaugural Bengali Food Festival that played to packed houses promises to turn into another annual culinary extravaganza. Kolkata’s celebrated Chef Sujoy Gupta who passionately prepares and poetically explains the uniqueness, nuances, intricate and intriguing spicing and sheer exuberance of Benagli delicacies would be only too pleased to return. He contends nobody relishes food quite like the Bengalis: art is in Bengali blood and Epicureanism is but another expression of this creative flair. 


For Chaat-busting chaats, hit Latitude. Indeed, the chaats have proved such a hit the Chaat Festival has become bi-annual. As guest chefs stationed behind authentic hawker’s carts toss brilliantly hued chutneys, thick curds and mischievous masalas onto a crush of puris or layer them artfully on tiny disc-like puris, one is amazed at their dexterity and ability to elicit from a group of ingredients a bewildering range of flavours by cleverly juggling the proportions, each creation dashed off with diced mango, tomato, onion and showered under a golden rain of sev. The interplay of such exotica wows. 

And then there’s another station for those piquant, pungent, power-packed pani puris. One bite into a tantalisingly tongue-tickling chaat, be it paapdi chaat, bhel, sev puri or dahi balla, and you realise no 5-Star chef could accomplish this. Indeed, these “chefs” are hawkers handpicked from the famous street stalls of Old Delhi. If you missed them last time, they’ll be back soon by popular demand. Until then, avail of Saturday Sri Lankan Night, without doubt the best Lankan spread in town including superb upcountry soups, an abundance of Lankan salads (think snake and bitter gourd), sumptuous curries and a mighty array of sweetmeats.

Hopper Night (Cinnamon Lakeside): 

Over Colombo’s most atmospheric themed nights a medley of local fare or rather fanfare plays out in style on lawns lavishly laid around the Beira Lake. “Style” is quite the operative word here as jazzy lighting and a smart set up fuse with the vernacular. The cultural show perhaps isn’t quite vernacular as damsels dance to Bollywood beats and local cuisine too assumes foreign flavours as I spot a group of Chinese tourists fling Ajinomoto onto the tastiest kottu in all Colombo. The extremely delicious dhal and outstanding potato hodi is next splattered. Thankfully, they spare the daintiest of string hoppers of which I demolish ten delightful strings, at least. No strings attached! Until you spy fabulous homemade kaludodol and realise you haven’t the stomach for it.

Curry Leaf: 

If I’ve experienced the creative flair Chef Karu brings to pastas spiked with spices and curry powder then I discover his take on the continental clear soup recreated marvellously with bitter gourd, whilst varietal yams are pounded into smooth paté incorporated into delicate cocktail rotis and canapés. The ever inventive Chef Karu discloses that once he had a London-based Lankan guest who craved for mallum so he quite simply broke off some leaves from the restaurant gardens whose complicated spelling and pronunciation quite defeat me but which made for a dish so wonderful it conquered the homesick diner. Chef proceeds to spray my table with a plethora of verdure, the only pronounceable one being gotu kola. But I’m soon immersed in a jungle of leaves fresh and specked in coconut snow, stir fried Chinese-style with garlic galore, in spiced dry mixes or luxuriating in coconut gravy. I’m also to find ethnic vegetables you wouldn’t see on Colombo buffets, like unusual tibbana battu that Chef declares very good for pressure.


Cheeky Chef Anura has re-invented the coleslaw with slashes of pineapple and other local exotica replacing the traditional shreds of carrot and cabbage. A sharp peppered marinade hotly supplants flat and heavy mayonnaise. He imparts an innovative twist to German salad so that it’s like the cheeses flayed off an Italian quatro formaggi pizza and frothed into a four-cheese dip served with not pretzels but the crispest garlic-buttered French baguette. This might not be “ethnic,” but it’s certainly chic! Chef Anura’s craftiest creation yet though is Indian chaat masalas, chutneys and yoghurt tossed into a tingling drape over roasted Mediterranean veggies like bell peppers, zucchini, aubergine. Now that’s ethnic chic with spices to go.

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