Thursday, January 24, 2013

Nihonbashi @ Colombo, Sri Lanka

First restaurant in the world to use the iPad as an interactive menu - just 9 days after the launch in the US!

Every now and then, I would reminisce the times I had in Sri Lanka where it was 3 months of stress free 'work-cation' (note: this could be the longest backlog I have - these were all eaten 2 years ago!). The only worry I had was where and what should I have for dinner after work since I was staying alone. I was constantly looking out for new food places by googling - and googling alot. Alas, I came across Nihonbashi. There honestly wasn't much write ups on the internet but there were a few articles that were all praises and it did seem like a must-visit.

After multiple visits to sample all it has to offer, I also made friends with the man behind Nihonbashi himself, and here's the write up which has been sitting in the drafts for far too long.

Appetizer Platters - Rs 1,060
Left - Sakura (a trio of cold appetizers, endamame, kani no ponzu soe (crab meat), and yasai no goma ae
Right - Tsubaki (warm appetizer trio, chargrilled tiger prawn tempura, chargrilled tsukune (minced chicken meat), and daikon radish slow cooked in chicken broth

Nom nom and slurp slurp
Left - Grilled river prawns - Rs 680
Right - Dobin mushi (seafood and mushroom soup made using fresh shitake mushrooms served in a dobin pot) - Rs 680

I remember having a pretty hard time trying to locate Nihonbashi as the tuk-tuk driver did not seem to know the restaurant or maybe didn't know what I was talking about? But alas, he managed to drop me right at the entrance and I was instantly thrilled for you can tell this could be an authentic Japanese restaurant unlike the ones in Hilton (Ginza Hohsen) or Cinammon Lakeside (Sushi Bar).

Can't remember what fish these were, but it was so good I had it all by myself!

Sushi & sashimi
Left - Shake no aburi sushi (marinated norwegian salmon sushi, blowtorched) - Rs 580
Right - Sashimi moriawase

Small plates
Left - Not in menu, it's pieces of tuna with excellent marbling and fat that just melts in your mouth
Right - Gyuu no tataki (this is beef from Sri Lanka, thinly sliced and heavenly) - Rs 580

Greens are good
Left - Can't remember the name, but it was a medley of seaweed-like vege in a wasabi-like dressing
Right - Karapincha tempura (traditional Sri Lankan curry leaf tempura) - Rs 380

Healthy eats, greens and soy
Left - Namaharumaki (fresh spring rolls)
Right - Agedashi tofu - Rs 580

Dinner course for one - Rs 2,680
Shake no aburi teriyaki (blow torched teriyaki salmon) with kani cha-han (crab fried rice) and miso soup

Kani cha-han (Japanense style crab fried rice) - Rs 1,180

I have read about the famed crab fried rice and it was my first dish at Nihonbashi - just as it was raved in the articles, it truly was delicious! Since then, I had returned multiple times during my 3 months stay in Colombo, taking my family and friend who visited to the restaurant. In fact, Nihonbashi was my most frequented restaurant in Colombo!

It was also during the first visit that I met the founder-owner-chef, Dharshan Munidasa in person himself. You would be curious how a Sri Lankan could whip up such amazing and authentic Japanese cuisine - the answer lies in his blood! Dharshan is of mixed parentage, his father a Sri Lankan, and mother a Japanese and he actually majored in computer engineering, not culinary! We chatted quite a bit and I quickly learnt more about him and his inspiration to starting up Nihonbashi.

Yakitori from the charcoal grill
Left - Ebi shio yaki (salt grilled prawn) - Rs 300
Right - Can't remember if it was chicken?

Steamed fresh Sri Lankan crabs and teppan grilled vegetables

Japanese pancake and a Nihonbashi special
Left - Okonomiyaki
Right - Garlic rice maki (a Nihonbashi original dish sees garlic rice rolled in nori and placed on a sizzling rock to crust, splashed with soy sauce) - Rs 980

Who and what inspires Nihonbashi?
Dharshan was in the US doing his computer engineering degree, and I suppose like many who studied abroad, he soon started cooking for himself and then for others and before he knows it, culinary and a passion for food started boiling over and he knew this is what he wants to do. He returned to Colombo and started Nihonbashi, and that was almost 18 years ago. The foodscene in Colombo was uninspiring (the civil war halted development) and as he told me it was a tough time to bring and introduce a new dining perspective to local Sri Lankans. Alas, the effort and sacrifices paid off as Nihonbashi celebrated it's 17 years anniversary last year. The restaurant is also making heads turn and riding the waves to being one out of two restaurants in Sri Lanka listed in the 2011/2012 Miele Guide (Asia's independent restaurant guide ranking the Top 500 restaurants in Asia).

Of handrolls and tempura
Left - Ten Sabi Temaki (hot tempura tiger prawn, cold vinegared rice and handrolled) - Rs 460
Right - Kaki age tempura - Rs 940

Yosanabe - Rs 2,980

You'll find yourself dining in a zen-like environment, I have personally dined in a few areas of the restaurant; the common area, a private dining room that seats about 10 pax, and the special wine room that comes with the chef's personal choice of music (i.e. the ipod playlist). The food is nothing less than amazing every single time. Freshest of ingredients, although not everything was air flown from the famous Tsukiji fish market (you would end up paying for the airfreight instead of the meat), Dharshan walks the local Colombo market everyday to scout for the freshest. However, Dharshan also flies frequently to Tokyo to stock up on the fresh harvest from the Japanese waters.

It is ironic that when people ask me what food in Sri Lanka was like and what was my favourite, Nihonbashi sits on top of the list and Chesa Swiss a close second - which both are non-Sri Lankan staple / local cuisine! If you happen to pop by Nihonbashi, be sure to tell Dharshan that I miss the food there!

Nihonbashi Honten
11, Galle Face Terrace,
Colombo 3,
Sri Lanka.
Tel: +94112323847

* Visuals by Sony T series

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are based on my personal views, tastebuds and preference and may vary for others. Please don't sue me, I don't have money. Kthxbye.]


U-Xinn Cheang said...

I have one question for you: How do you stay so skinny with all the good food that you have? Haha! Hope you're doing well, Yiling!

YilingL said...

Unfortunately I don't get fat horizontally (though I won't mind a little bit). Still alive and kicking, hope you're doing great too... when's the wedding bells? ;)

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