Going for dinner on a Wednesday, in the middle of the working week seems a mild challenge. Amidst a gentle drizzle we entered Independence Arcade, in our culinary quest of the Asylum. The name for a restaurant is mildly out of the box, but it is a cool strategy that triggers the curious mind.

Nestled in the innermost sanctum of the arcade the venue resonates with the warm glow of yellow lights. It was nice to see some Christmas décor still on display. One side of the venue leads to a cozy lounge with large sofa sets, while the main dining area takes the other end. The tables and chairs are spaced thoughtfully. The unique feature here are the lights suspended from the ceiling: a cluster of brown column like shades gives a mix of medieval and colonial charm. The relaxing ambience is perfect for dining.

After sipping the strawberry mojito mocktail and awaiting the laksa seafood soup, a glance at the menu yields some amazing dishes.

I chose the North African Tagine while my friend selected the Sous Vide Barramundi. North African food is gaining a steady momentum globally. The Asylum also has a separate Tapas menu that supplements its beverage menu. A dish named firecracker cuttle fish can seriously trigger the food lust of anyone! The soup is presented in a large black bowl on a black tray, and its inside is loaded with shrimp, tofu, vermicelli and Australian mussels. This version of the Malaysian Laksa made by Head Chef Nishad is probably one of the best in Colombo.

After this passionate indulgence our main course arrives. The North African Tagine is a lamb stew served with olives and herbed couscous. Served on a brown ramican it is a lovely dinner option, not too heavy. The lamb is tender and juicy. The Barramundi has been cooked by Sous Vide - a cooking style that originated in 2009. In this cooking system the fish or meat is placed in a vacuum sealed bag and cooked in a special oven at low temperature. The fish is neatly presented with bull horn capsicum, olive oil and tahini puree. Again, it is a refreshing option to enjoy a fillet of fish, which could have had a bit more colour for visual appeal.

Already feeling satisfied, we are presented the menu again for dessert. The lime cheesecake was my desire and my friend opted for the chocolate fudge cake. Both desserts were presented on square white plates, and were intense in flavour. In addition to dinner the Asylum has a breakfast menu on the weekends and serves dishes such as Eggs Florentine, Lamb Sliders and Eggs Benedict.

Chef Jerome Labrooy is the consultant chef to the restaurant. The venue has ample safe parking. The restaurant offers generous portions that resonate well within one’s budget and is a fun place to eat.