Even though we only picked Colombo, Sri Lanka, a week before our trip began, I can’t think of a better place to start this adventure. It’s taken some adjusting to life without a home base and living out of a suitcase… but when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I remind myself that it could be worse. Instead of lovely 80-degree weather, I could be suffering through -15 degrees at home in Chicago. (That’s 27 and -27 for those non-US folks playing along.)
It’s also the perfect place to begin our food adventure! Since it’s an island country, the seafood here is amaaazing. And the spices are to die for.
Here are my favorite places to eat in Colombo:
In the US, former athletes open steakhouses (lookin’ at you, Michael Jordan). In Sri Lanka? They open crab places! Started by two cricket players, The Ministry of Crab is a must-try restaurant. They have ten sizes of crabs, from ½ Kilo Crab to Crabzilla.
We opted to try the XL Crab with Garlic Chili sauce, and it was seriously the best crab I’ve ever tasted. It was tender and flavorful, and the sauce – a mix of olive oil, garlic, Sri Lankan chili flakes and Japanese soy sauce – was just the right level to balance the natural crab flavor. On the side, we ordered garlic bread and KanKun Garlic & Egg (KanKun is like spinach).
The atmosphere is charming with a posted constitution and amendments, fake newspaper articles about crabs, and bibs that say “Keep Calm and Crab on.” This is a place that doesn’t take itself too seriously, so it’s a bit surprising to be listed among fancy tasting menu restaurants on Asia’s Top 50 Restaurants. But its placement well-deserved, because the food speaks for itself. This was my favorite meal of the trip so far!
My other favorite restaurant in Colombo is The Lagoon, connected to the Cinnamon Grand Hotel. The waiter took our order for starters (warm Oysters with soya and chives… Mmmm), but we had to get up to visit the fish counter to order our main dishes. They recommended the Modha fillet with Sri Lanka spicy coconut gravy. The cuisine in Sri Lanka is similar to South Indian cuisine, so we’ve been seeing coconut curries everywhere. We also tried the Prawns with a Chinese style chili garlic. With each bite I struggled a little bit more to decide which of the main dishes was my favorite.
We stopped into the Gallery Café for our first meal in Colombo. The atmosphere is lovely with artwork and indoor/outdoor seating. We jumped right into Sri Lankan food with a blackened pork with curry and lasagna with prawn and lobster. The atmosphere is great also with indoor/outdoor seating and a mix of locals and tourists dining.
If you’re looking for fast food, look no further than Isso. It feels like the Sri Lankan version of Chipotle, but with shrimp instead. There are three steps to order: Prawn size, Style (I chose Homemade Secret, my husband tried Northern Twist), and Carb (sweet potato fries for me!). It’s ready in about 10 minutes, and such a great deal for a fresh and tasty lunch.
Colombo restaurants set the bar high for the rest of the trip. Let’s see if the other cities can keep up!