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The Chef’s Table at Kaema Sutra: Shining star of Sri Lankan cuisine


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The place

The Sri Lankan cuisine restaurant Kaema Sutra at Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo, serves up sensational food coupled with superb views of the sunset, making it the perfect place to unwind in the evenings. Founded by celebrity chef Dharshan Munidasa and internationally-acclaimed Sri Lankan actress Jacqueline Fernandez, Kaema Sutra serves up a great variety of traditional and contemporary dishes, using age-old recipes and new-age cooking techniques.

The person

Dharshan Munidasa is best known for his commitment to using only the finest ingredients, as a result of which all his restaurants are extremely popular. With Kaema Sutra, he pays homage to the evolution of local cuisine.

“The Lamprais is the most special thing we do – it is the shining star of what I’ve made and has so many elements. It’s the only lamprais in the world that is wrapped to order and oven baked to order. Another great dish is the sashimi grade tuna Ambulthiyal, which is made in minutes at your table, and goes against all ambulthiyal principles,” said Dharshan, describing his favourite dishes at Kaema Sutra.

Zombie Raksha

Spiced rum, Mount Gay Silver, Cachaca, lime juice, vanilla liqueur, passion fruit juice, passion fruit puree, bitter – The tiki style mug homage to the “raksha” of Sri Lankan origin. A sweet cocktail, combining Caribbean flavours, with passion, balanced through the vanilla. Overlooking the sunset, sipping this delightful cocktail. A perfect start to the evening.  

Black hopper

Fresh squid ink mixed into the batter, served with buffalo curd sprinkled with crystals of homemade salt – The first surprising combination of the evening, seamlessly marrying tastes of Sri Lanka and the Italian coast. The hopper was wonderfully crispy and light and the squid ink added that touch of briny coastal flavour, which helps cut out the richness of the curd. A case study in how simple ingredients can be combined to great effect. 

Tuna and Egg Cutlet 

Inspired by the humble fish cutlet served at street corners and home parties, this cutlet grew to encompass a whole egg with a creamy yolk along with ambulthiyal made from sashimi grade tuna – One thing is for sure, whatever idea you had about the fish cutlet goes out the window with this cutlet, which is easily the size of a grown man’s clenched fist. The joy of cutting in straight through the yolk and watching it flow out through the wonderful ambulthiyal! A golden stream running over the nooks and crannies of the cutlet all the while adding to the flavour profiles. A must try. 

Egg roti squares

Street style egg roti stuffed with mutton – Gorgeous chunks of soft mutton generously stuffed into the mainstay of Lankan street food, the great egg roti, our longstanding love affair with the roti has only been elevated through this experience. Kaema Sutra has masterfully stayed true to the street food culture, carefully ensuring all the nostalgia is intact. The mutton almost melts in your mouth contrasting in texture to the roti with its wafting aroma of the street. 

Hot chilli wings

A classic but with a Sri Lankan influence. Inspired by buffalo wings but this dish has a buffalo curd dip that replaces the common cheese dip which balances out the hot and sour – Exactly what you want to share with a few of your nearest and dearest, the wings have just the right touch of local spice to help you remember this is our version, the curd had a wonderfully smooth and light texture with its signature tangy after notes balancing the spice hit expertly. 

Tuna Ambulthiyal

Sashimi grade tuna from the Indian Ocean is cut into cubes and cooked a la minute at your table with tangy garcinia to create this famous southern black curry – Ever wondered what it is like to be part of something truly special? To really experience contemporary Sri Lankan cuisine? When René Redzepi or Massimo Bottura talk about their food, their heritage, one never truly understands; after all food is meant to be tasted, meant to be experienced. This dish is what modern Sri Lankan food should taste like. From the moment they bring out the single gas burner to the table filled with immaculate chunks of tuna, when the server pours the Ambulthiyal liquid and explains it must be cooked for exactly eight minutes – the precision, the level of detail that Dharshan has gone to, is impressive. The eight-minute wait only adds to the sense of expectation and this dish is so far ahead of its time in Colombo, you would be forgiven that you were sitting at Noma or Osteria Francescana taking a journey through every bite. It is cooked to perfection, all the delicate flavours of the tuna heightened through the garcinia notes. This description does not even come close to doing this dish justice, just go have it. Right now. 

The Lamprais

This beloved culinary gem has many cultural influences woven together by the Dutch colonisers and makes its appearance with flavourful rice and six delicious curries wrapped in a banana leaf. Baked to order and proud to be the only ones doing so – Ah, the lamprais, what can we say that hasn’t been said before? Made to order, yes you read that right, not frozen and re-heated, like all other pretenders in Colombo. The rice, laboured over a pure chicken stock almost like a ramen chef obsesses over his broth. When you open up the banana wrapping, you are greeted with the gentle yet unmistakable olfactory sensation of the perfect lamprais, inviting you to dive right in, and dive you should. 

Kottu Sutra 

With Kaema Sutra's own unique spin on this local favourite, artfully made on a Japanese teppanyaki grill – Crab and kottu, need we say more? Wonderfully presented but underneath the prim and proper presentation you will find your beloved kottu. The real star is the crab gravy - subtle not overpowering, and hitting all the right notes. A perfect introduction to kottu for the cautious taste-bud types. 

What the hopper

The signature dish at Kaema Sutra, a crunchy pani appa (honey hopper) filled with whipped curd and topped with freshly chopped strawberries, drizzled with pure palm treacle – Finishing off the evening with the sweet version of the hopper, easily the best pani appa we have ever had. Gently break off pieces of the crispy hopper, almost like you would do with honey comb, dip it in the creamy curd with a fresh piece of strawberry. So many textures and flavours in one bite. The crisp honey, breaking away with the buffalo cream, rounded off with the tangy, sweet notes of the berry. Beautiful.

 

Pix by Indraratne Balasuriya

 


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