Curry Leaf: sustaining authentic Sri Lankan cuisine | Sunday Observer

Curry Leaf: sustaining authentic Sri Lankan cuisine

Being Sri Lankan, one often takes for granted the culinary heritage of our country. With many other “regional ethnic” dining choices eating “Sri Lankan” can at times be submerged in our decision making process.

On Wednesday evening, (22) we sought some solace from our editorial blues and headed next door to the Hilton Colombo.

The Curry Leaf has been in operation for more than two decades. The entire venue is alive with an assortment of gastronomic fragrances. One of the first things you spot is the seafood display - a fresh array of fish, prawns and crabs. Chefs are busy preparing these deep sea delights.

The restaurant has two options: you can sit outside under a large thatched roof or inside. From either point you can observe the vibrant display of our native cuisine. The menu is brought to life by Chef Amila Boteju. It was surprising to note that Chef Amila has grown a patch of vegetables on one side of the venue: chili, brinjals, pineapple, spinach and other herbs.

Amila Boteju went onto explain “Our aim here is to sustain the traditional cooking styles from all parts of Sri Lanka. We want our guests to experience the best of local cuisine. Whenever I travel out of Colombo I am always looking for new recipes- even going into distant villages to identify local food”.

Chef Amila has mentored his team to make food with an elegant showmanship; a crucial role- the visual displays captivating your senses and making your dinner very interactive.

The signature dish at Curry Leaf is the Lagoon Crab. The crab is succulently transformed into a taste laden dish. Fiona Shockman who has been with Hilton for 22 years brings the crab to our table with her radiant smile. One has to delightfully dig into the crab using both hands- the best way to savour the tender meat inside the shell.

The next round of local delicacies was fried fish and savoury cuttle fish.. The round vadai made by Chef Saba was super. Chef Saba adds his range of Jaffna food to the buffet: increasing its value and attraction. Northern cuisine has its own delicate mix of spices. Actions stations serve hoppers, kottu rotti and the ‘lensu’ thin rotti. The Batticaloa mutton kottu is a scintillating culinary treat, and is probably the best kottu in town.

Chef Amila must be given credit for redefining the humble hopper: he makes them with variation using cheese, honey, coconut milk, beetroot and carrot. The signature one is the omelette hopper. This is the kind of Sri Lankan culinary display that makes good impressions on foreign guests, who have their ‘first’ native food encounter.

Another stop is the ‘Kavum-kokis’ station where two smiling women confidently turn out these local sweets dressed in traditional attire. A calypso band gives out fine renditions of Sinhala hits from yesteryear, the pulsating beats enhancing your dining experience.

After indulging in some excellent cultural dining, the meal concluded with a ‘ginger tea’ served in a cutwork glass – known from old Ceylon as Asoka glass. This attention to detail shows the genuine desire of the Curry Leaf staff to maintain that bliss of a true Sri Lankan village. The buffet is absolute value for money. The Curry Leaf, open daily for dinner is a magnificent culinary gem in the heart of Colombo, and has excelled in redefining Sri Lankan cuisine.