Your Hands are for Eating
My friend and I held an event called "Food Adventure" and wanted to try an authentic place in a remote location. Today, we went to Staten Island and tried authentic Sri Lankan food! They provided a delicious Sunday Buffet at a cheap cost. We took the ferry from the South Ferry port of Manhattan and rode 30 minutes, then took a train to the nearest station to the restaurant.
There were several restaurants around there, and nothing else. When we got in around 6 PM, there were already some people eating even in this remote location.
The decor was nothing but awesome. There were many Sri Lankan decorations all over the restaurant. I felt as if I had been in a fine dining restaurant in Sri Lanka. I heard the owner of this restaurant had imported all of the interior decorations from Sri Lanka.
I found a message from the restaurant on a mirror on my way to the buffet. It said "Sri Lankan food would be more tastier if you use your fingers than the forks." We didn't decide to do it at that time, but kept it in mind.
There were many clay pots at the buffet: Egg curry, chicken curry, pork curry, pineapple curry, eggplant paste and so on. All of them looked delicious! I took some of them and planned what to eat for my second plate.
Here is my first plate and a Mango Lassi which I had ordered before taking the plate. The curries were not too spicy and had different tastes respectively. Although all the curries were amazing, the eggplant paste was the best and the pineapple curry was the second best. We didn't use our fingers to eat this time, though.
Since it was so delicious, we, of course, went to get my second helping. I took the eggplant paste mainly but also some of the others. I remembered the message from the restaurant, so I did as they instructed and tried eating with my fingers for the first time. I had seen people using their fingers as spoons but not like chopsticks in Nepal, so I got after it. It was a little difficult to use my fingers as a spoon, but it tasted a little better or at least that's what I tell myself. I went back up to the buffet for a third time and took more food and some of the desserts although I was almost full and my friend just took desserts.
There were 4 desserts, mango mousse, pudding, sri lankan yogurt and tapioka pudding. All of them were sooooo delicious! I especially liked the mango mousse. I could eat them although my stomack was about to explode with my third plate.
It was so delicious that I ate more than my capacity. I was almost dying on the way to the ferry port. There were not so many trains running in Staten Island, especially at night, so we waited for the train for more than 30 minutes. We also waited for the ferry for one hour because some ferries didn't come for some reason. Although it took a long time to get there and get home, we were satisfied with this food adventure. It was worth going as a short trip. I wish the restaurant were in Manhattan... However, it would lose its charm and the food would become expensive if it were in Manhattan.
Food Adventure Staten Island
Wow, what an amazing adventure and food experience! This was actually my first time on Staten Island besides running through the station, so that was an experience in and of itself and although, in certain areas, it was much like a ghost town, it was quite a nice getaway from Manhattan. Getting to this place was relatively easy; the ferry's run often in the late afternoon and once at the station, you take the Staten Island Railway just two quick stops to Stapleton.
Situated on the very stark Bay St, it was hard to imagine such a beautiful restaurant behind the very ordinary sign.
But wow, when we walked in, I was so enchanted by all the beautiful Sri Lanken artwork. light fixtures and ornate chairs. I felt as if I was in some sort of ancient temple and the owner or manager who greeted us, wearing a traditional robe fit perfectly with the decor.
He left us a beautiful ceramic pitcher of water with equally lovely cups and then dropped off our mango lassi, which was top knotch. Lucky for us, Sunday is buffet day, so after we got hydrated we raced over to the food.
All the dishes were displayed in identical, earthy pots. There were many great types of curry including pork, chicken, pineapple, lentil, green bean and eggplant. There was also onion sambol with egg, a kale and coconut salad and rice and cassava to absorb all the good flavors.
There was even a tray of roasted chiles de arbol to add a punch of heat (I think they knew I was coming!!).
We both loaded up on our first plates, not able to contain our excitement:
With my first plate, I covered the protein curries. As I expected, the pork curry was my favorite: tender, tender meat in a great dark curry sauce that was smoky and spicy with just the right amount of sweet. I knew this would be making an appearance on plate number 2 as well. The chicken curry was tasty, nice and spicy with green peppers adding a balance of texture, but I wasn't really wowed with this one and I think the chicken could have been more moist. I was very excited to try the pineapple curry and the rich sauce ended up being a very interesting contrast, but it was still a little too sweet for me. The green been curry was nice, but nothing special, although I did appreciate having more veggies on the plate.
That one was down in a flash and time for plate number two!
I loaded on the eggplant curry since it was my friend's favorite from his first plate and, boy, was I happy about that. The eggplant was really just melting apart in the best way and I was happy that the skin was left on because it gave it a nice texture. I will say that it was indeed sweet, so it helped to have some bites of the refreshing kale and coconut salad in between. The lentil curry had that familiar strong cumin flavor, but it was done just right, I liked that the lentils were nice and firm and it was a great contrast to the sweeter curries.
Also after reading an interesting quote that read, "Sri Lankan food would be more tastier if you use your fingers than the forks", we thought why not follow the advice and plate two was eaten completely with our hands! It was an awesome and messy experience and in the end, I did agree that it tasted better. :)
After these two plates I was totally stuffed, but knew I had to make room for the lovely dessert buffet. My friend, on the other hand, went for a third full plate, I was totally shocked, what stamina!
There was a beautiful egg custard with toasted almonds, which was tasty, but just too rich for me at that point in the game. The sago pudding with raisins was nice and simple, but the gummy texture was also a little filling.
I really enjoyed the mango mousse and the yogurt with honey, which were nice and fresh, a great way to finish off a heavy meal.
Well, I would definitely come back here and recommend it to absolutely anyone, with the caveat that anyone who does not live in Staten Island should block off about half a day for this adventure. The train and ferry did not run so consistently later in the evening, so it took us quite a while to get home, but it was well worth every minute !
A Veteran Sri Lankan Eatery Is Reborn on Staten Island
A mural depicting traditional Sri Lankan culture covers Lakruwana’s outside wall. Photo by L. O.
The colorful masks and woven, traditional Sri Lankan chairs in Lakruwana’s dining room have an intentionally exotic look that is designed to appeal to Western tastes. The recipes used in its kitchen, however, are simply authentic and homey—largely unadapted to American palates.
Lakruwana opened in Stapleton, Staten Island, just six months ago. But Sri Lankan food enthusiasts will recall that Lakruwana was one of Manhattan’s first Sri Lankan restaurants. It closed abruptly in 2004 after a fire ended its nine-year tenure.
Now, after spending several years in their native Sri Lanka, owners Lakruwana and Jayantha Wijesinghe have revived Lakruwana near Staten Island’s burgeoning Sri Lankan community in Tompkinsville.
We started with the lamprais, which combined small mounds of basmati rice and cashews, onion sambol (a chutney-like mixture of onions cooked with spices), eggplant, a deep-fried tuna fish-and-potato cutlet and beef—all steamed together in a banana leaf. When mixed, the many distinctly flavored ingredients were surprisingly mild and well-balanced.
Beef lamprais at Lakruwana. Photo by L. O.
The dish, which was invented by the Dutch during their colonial occupation of Sri Lanka in the 17th and 18th centuries (they called it “lomprijst”), is Lakruwana’s house special. (Full disclosure: Your humble reviewer, a vegetarian, owes the “meaty” portions of this review to the careful descriptions provided by her carnivorous dining companions.)
The spice lovers in the group couldn’t resist trying the deviled shrimp (stir-fried with green bell pepper, onion, tomato and hot chilies). The shrimp were well-cooked, but the dish clearly had been adjusted for American palates—it tasted like a spiced-up version of General Tso’s chicken.
Deviled shrimp at Lakruwana. Photo by L. O.
At Wijesinghe’s recommendation, we also tried the basket-shaped hoppers, a rice-flour “crepe” that is a typical Sri Lankan breakfast dish. The special pans in which they are sautéed give hoppers their signature shape.
Hoppers at Lakruwana. Photo by L. O.
Our hoppers were thin and light. They came with a mixed vegetable curry that was both coconut-y sweet and back-of-the-throat spicy. Even our meat eaters enthusiastically dug in.
Next we attacked the weekend buffet, guided to the best dishes by Wijesinghe himself, and came back with plates loaded with egg curry (hard-boiled eggs in a coconut-y broth), beet root curry, potato curry, chana daal (stewed lentils made from chickpeas), pineapple curry, deviled chicken, pork curry and biryani, as well as several sambols—chutney-like side dishes that add a piquant kick to Sri Lankan meals.
Sri Lankan cooking uses coconut and spices to generate flavor. This was evident in all the buffet dishes, which were surprisingly light—more like home cooking than the usual grease-slicked fare served in other buffets.
Clockwise from upper left: egg curry, beet root curry, potato curry, chana daal, pineapple curry, fried crisps and biryani from Lakruwana’s weekend buffet. Photo by L. O.
The beet root curry was tender but not mushy while simultaneously hot and sweetly coconut-flavored. The plump chana daal, seasoned with cumin and curry leaves, had a mild, thick gravy. The pork curry—spicy and smoky-flavored—was fall-apart tender.
The katta sambol, which packed aggressive heat, was particularly popular with our spice fiends, while the onion and coconut sambols were milder and appealingly tangy and sweet.
We ended the meal on a sweet note with mango mousse from the buffet, which Wijesinghe doctored with a spoonful of tangy homemade yogurt and a drizzle of fresh honey—one of many thoughtful touches in a very satisfying meal.
The place is gorgeous..the service is great. .the food. .extremely underwhelming. ..I came here looking for vegan food. ..perhaps I should consider trying the meats next time, because although I was thoroughly disappointed with the food, the ambiance will bring me back. .sometime. .The veggie cutlets were outstanding. .absolutely recommend them. .on the other hand, don't get the masala wade (a yellow lentil pattie) it is extremely dry, and lacks flavor.The flavors were just extremely muted. .they clearly cater to a more bland palate. .i expect Sri Lankan food to taste epic, powerful, flavorful and spicy. .and it wasn't any of those things. .
The food at Lakruwana is distinct and delicious. Most people aren't used to Sri Lankan food – but have come to love it due to their visits here. Customers are glad that the chef will alter the amount of spice in the dishes due to their preferences, but some argue that the lack of spice in some dishes takes away from the entire meal. The menu is large, and varied enough for everybody to be happy.
A number of people have mentioned that they have been drawn to Lakruwana for the awesome décor and atmosphere! They are amazed that it looks a bit run-down on the outside – but you are completely transformed once you step into the restaurant and see the traditional Sri Lankan furnishings, wooden carvings, and huge statues throughout the dining room!
Just about every patron always compliments the warm and friendly service at Lakruwana, although there have been some complaints that it can be a bit slow. Overall, waiters and employees are extremely helpful and attentive, in order to ensure a truly great experience for each customer; they help with menu selection and tailoring your meal to your tastes.