The quest for authentic Middle Eastern food remains hard to come by in Colombo. Again, though we have had immense trading bonds with people from these regions for centuries, we did not sufficiently sustain their culinary impact. For most people who are unfamiliar with this food they would think biriyani is an authentic dish of this region, not having eaten the full menu of the Arabic nations which include- Iranian, Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish cuisine. Most of us foodies have eaten at Mama Aidas and know the beautiful story of this amiable lady with roots from Lebanon. From this lineage Amrita de Saram has amalgamated their family recipes to launch her own special food venue- August. The cozy restaurant is located along Castle Street and you enter via a blue iron door, which adds a sense of mystery. The interior is a rustic blend infused with the comfort of Middle Eastern royalty. Large sofas are visible. On one side is a large rack, displaying ornaments, and a tree stands like a sentinel.

The menu consists of some fine dishes, and Amrita is on hand to explain that she is not a chef but a passionate home cook. She has trained her staff to make these dishes sustaining the traditional taste. As we browse through the menu we sample a mint and cucumber drink, which is quite soothing. We decide to try the hummus (chickpea dipped in olive oil), babaghanoush (grilled aubergine with olive oil), slow cooked lamb with pomegranate molasses, beef shawarma and garlic prawns. This is a typical selection of dishes and is supplemented by Arabic flat bread. The menu also had tahini and harrisa sauce. The flow of city traffic is mildly disturbing, yet, this is the city and you would experience this maybe till about 8pm and then Colombo becomes quiet and serene. The slow cooked pulled leg of lamb is tender and the pomegranate molasses adds a unique zest to this dish. We have tried beef shawarma at many small outlets in and around Colombo- but the beef at August is succulent and expresses a fine mix of spices, kept secret for decades.

I was surprised to find prawns on a Middle Eastern menu, but there is always a first time and the prawns were nicely done and went down well with the hummus and pitta bread. The meal makes you realize the wonderful culinary heritage of the Muslim world. One element lacking at August was some entertainment, yet, there was piped music. After this delightful meal it was time for dessert. I opted for a dark chocolate tart with cardamom and my friend tried the August mess- rose water infused meringue with fresh strawberries and cream. Both desserts were delicious and had decent portions. This meal is complete with a cup of Arabic coffee. This venue is an oasis in the city and well worth a visit.


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