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Galle – Food Review

The team at Frontier Research, in a fit of adventure last month took its food blogging expeditions 124 km south of Colombo to the beautiful city of Galle. The team put their chef hats on at four restaurants; the famous Amangalla Hotel, Rocket Burger, Pedlar’s Inn Café and Crepe-o-logy.

Amangalla Hotel

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Along the picturesque, narrow Church Street at the Galle Fort is found a serene hotel, Amangalla. Amangalla is a 5 star hotel belonging to the well renowned Aman Resorts franchise, which has been in service since 1988 and has a presence in around 17 countries. Amangalla is one of the more expensive places to stay or dine in and since we were on a budget so we did only the latter, but still we didn’t find as much value for money as we’d hoped for.

The hotel ambience and architecture was probably the highlight of our lunch. The hotel is beautifully redone but has maintained its previous identity, from its days of being known as the New Oriental Hotel. We selected a table on the wide verandah area of the hotel which hosts a dining area. The location provides a view that helps you to quietly gather your thoughts while you enjoy the light ocean breeze. All meals are a’ la carte with a variety of options.

Sitting down for lunch, we decided to steer away from the salad, burger and sandwich options. For our mains we went for 3 dishes: homemade pumpkin ravioli (with butter, parmesan and nutmeg), a lime roast organic chicken (with warm lentil salad and herb relish) and a steamed Asian sea bass (with sautéed water spinach, lime and thyme).

breadOur order was followed by the “Entrée”,some bread and butter.The bread was very freshly and crisply baked with an ideal touch of additional spice and was near perfect. Our drinks followed; one Banana Milkshake and Papaya Juice, not the most adventurous of options.However they were prepared to our expectations, making it a good start to our lunch and review.

 

 

Homemade pumpkin ravioli

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The presentation was nothing extraordinary, and since we are putting our chef hats on, it could have been less buttery with more flavors to enjoy so whilst it was pleasantly edible, it wasn’t entirely enjoyable.Overall an average dish which could have been prepared better,

 

 

A steamed Asian sea bass

sea bassThis was a very well presented dish of two Slices of Steamed Sea Bass laid on some tossed spinach with a tomato dressing on top. The fish was steamed to almost perfection and was soft yet tough enough to make it enjoyable. However the fish lacked a bit of extra flavor which could have made this an amazing dish. Then again, this might be our Sri Lankan palettes talking. We encountered a couple of bones in the fish which was rather unpleasant. The spinach was very nicely done and had a nice crunchy and sour flavor.

The quantity of the fish in the Asian sea bass was more than sufficient and we struggled to finish it. Overall the dish was above average and very well presented so we would give it a thumps up despite the fish bone incident, which was the only major letdown.

A lime roast organic chicken

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The winner among the dishes was the lime roast organic chicken which was tender and went well with the salad. This was a well presented dish which had some sliced rolls of chicken on top of a lentil preparation and a salad dressing on the side. The chicken was amazing in taste and texture. The lentils got a mixed review. One of us enjoyed them while the other felt it had a pungent sour taste. Overall despite the lentil conundrum, the dish was easily the best dish out of the three and gets a thumbs up.

 

Chocolate and Mascarpone Cheesecake–Dessert

cheeseThe 3 main courses left us with little space for desert, but the Chocolate and Mascarpone Cheesecake (with a Hazelnut biscuit base) caught our eye. This didn’t look that great on the plate but it was certainly not the typical cheesecake that you find in Colombo cafés; because it wasn’t the cheesecake that was the focus, but rather the thick chocolate component within the cheese cake. The cheesecake also had a strong alcohol-like after-taste which we assumed to be from the Italian cheese used in the preparation since the menu had no mention of alcohol as an ingredient.

We definitely would not recommend this desert, and looking back the other options in the menu may have been better sounding choices.

The Service

The staff were dressed in national outfits but the service was not very hospitable. However, the great ambience compensated for the lacuna in warmth when it came to the service.

Overall the restaurant did not live up to our expectations of this highly reputed hotel. The food sported a few blunders, and there are definitely gaps in preparation and presentation. However we did experience a few positives as well, hence our overall view is that Amangalle is a definite try-out option,but don’t keep your hopes too high.

Rocket Burger

ATT_1430811136170_20150313_152306Located along Pedlar’s Street in the iconic Galle Fort, Rocket Burger reminds you of a tiny pre-school classroom with its grey and yellow benches and tables. The particularly bright colours and the jovial owner set it quite apart from surrounding establishments.

We went upstairs and selected seats on the balcony; which gave us a glimpse of everyday life inside Galle fort. All in all, this restaurant seemed like it could accommodate around 20-25 people in one go.

The menu showed reasonable variety, however it was unfortunate that they had run out of fish by the time we ordered (2pm). The menu has some interesting items listed such as Shipwreck, Grandma, and Texas Cowboy. The waiter was friendly but seemed a little un-informed. But they did warn us with a poster that said “Due to a shortage of robots, some of our staff are human”. So we supposed this was understandable.

We ordered a vegetarian Shipwreck which came with a side of tartar sauce and coleslaw; A Beef Gringo Combo, which included fries (because who doesn’t love fries!); a Peach Iced Tea and an Atomic Mexican Rocket Burrito.

The food took 20 minutes to arrive. Even though the portions appeared quite small, they ended up being very filling. The burrito wrap was exceptionally good but overall the sauces tasted a tad too sweet. The burgers were better than average, with very generous filling. The beef in the Gringo was well done.

On the downside, the fries were quite oily and soggy, and the Iced tea was rather strong but still refreshing on a hot day.

The most entertaining part of our meal was the delightful owner who made it a point to check up on us to make sure we were well served. He had a fairly amusing tactic of attracting passers-by by his friendly interactions and loud demeanour. Rocket Burger is definitely a place we would visit again.

Crepe-o-logy

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After our Rocket Burger adventure, we wanted to try a different place to have dessert, and we googled “Dessert places in Galle fort” and lo and behold the first suggestion was Crepe-o-logy. Not to be mistaken with Creep-o-logy.

Located a few shops away from Rocket Burger, Crepe-o-logy is a rooftop restaurant ideal for a laid-back evening with its comfortable seats and antique decor. The crepes were all priced between Rs. 450 and Rs. 600 and had catchy names.

We ordered a French Kiss, a chocolate filled crepe (with a side of chocolate ice cream for an extra Rs. 100), a Strawberry and Cream filled Wimbledon, and a Happy Ending with slices of banana and chocolate.

The crepes were presented very well and tasted equally good. Safe to say most us were sugar-high after the overdose of chocolate.

We also ordered a Papaya juice and a Black Current Soda. The Papaya juice was quite basic, but the Black Current Soda was a star.

The service was efficient and friendly. The receipt came in a fancy little box with a few treats of Milady mint toffees.

Pedlar’s Inn Cafe

pedlarPedlar’s Inn is a medium sized restaurant located inside an old building in a busy area of the Galle Fort. It is mostly frequented by foreigners.

Inside the restaurant is a little dark and decorated with old photographs and ancient local statues. Those unusual decorations give an aura of a museum to the place. There are wooden tables and sofas for the customers both within and outside the restaurant.

The service was OK and our orders didn’t take too long to arrive.

The uniform wore by the staff is quite similar to the usual hotel staff uniform which looked decent. All the staff people were polite and willing to provide an excellent service to us. Anyway we got the service properly without any issue.

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We ordered the Chicken Club Sandwich, Roast Beef Sandwich, Chocolate Milk Shake and Strawberry Milk Shake. The Club Sandwich was offered with chips and salad. The bread was toasted and there was cheese, chicken and egg within the slices. It was tasty but would have been tastier had the bread been only lightly toasted. However with the chips and salad, the chicken sandwich is quite filling and for Rs.850, quite reasonable for such a location.

The Roast Beef Sandwich was offered same as the Chicken Club Sandwich with a plate of potato chips and salad. The bread wasn’t as toasty as the chicken sandwich. It was instead, nicely baked. Both of the sandwiches were served pleasantly hot.

The Strawberry Milk Shake was good, but not good as the chocolate one. It could also have beenthicker.. At Rs.450 it is a little steeply priced. The Chocolate shake was thicker and we liked it more..

The ambiance was a little too dark for our taste. Perhaps one reason for most tourists to prefer the tables outside. The café has free Wi-Fi connectivity for its customers. The place is a primary  point of tourist attraction inside the Fort.

Skyline Eating

Previously, the Frontier team decided to use part of its annual budget for a neighbourhood watch, wholly executed through restaurant reviews. This time around, we decided to tweak our definition of ’neighbourhood’ to better reflect the city in which we’re based.

Colombo is changing: its dining options, skyline, and, quite probably, its coastline are undergoing a series of facelifts, and we at Frontier are determined to keep up. Sky Lounge at The Kingsbury, touted the ‘Epicentre of Colombo’s Nightlife’ at its very outset, seemed the perfect vantage point from which to begin our watch.

The Bar/Lounge is somewhat less crowded than its reputation suggests, especially in the late-evening Happy-Hours, and the traffic on Galle Road seems almost tranquil, from afar. We only truly noticed the volume at which the music was playing on our way out, and the seating arrangement allowed for plenty of conversation but not so much for tucking in, with the staff tactfully inconspicuous most of the time. Overall the furniture and the setup at least had the right ambience to serve its purpose.

As expected of a bar, the Bar Menu was quite extensive, although we missed having a good selection of Mocktails. Two Mocktails were suggested, and the Virgin Mojito (Rs. 450) we sampled was very good. The Jazzy Mint Tea (Rs. 360) was mintier than expected, and, like the chilled tomato juice (Rs. 390), may not be to everyone’s taste.

The starter, a portion of pizza rolls (Rs. 500), was unimpressive: many of us felt it was simply ‘alright’, although the giant prawns (Rs. 600) we ordered later on made up for it. For much of the evening, service was prompt, with our starters and mains arriving more or less together.

Of the salads, we had an Avocado, Prawn and Crab Cocktail (Rs. 700) and a Chicken Caesar salad (Rs. 700), and from the sandwiches, we ordered an ABLT (Rs. 520), a Rock Star Bagel (Rs. 580), and a Beef Happy Burger (Rs. 800). Once again, the seafood stood out, this time in the form of a very appetizing cocktail. The Caesar salad was unexceptional: a generous portion, but one lacking flavour. The beef burger, too, was filling, but the burger failed to impress. The bagel, with its heavy smoked Alaskan salmon, delighted; and the ABLT is sure to please any egg lovers, especially given its flavourful raw onions.

The most interesting items on the dessert menu were the House Signature Tiramisu (Rs. 600) and the Your Choice of Ice creams (Rs. 600) with just three basic flavours to pick from (Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry), both of which were ordered, but only the latter sampled: a minor mishap in an otherwise satisfactory experience at the lounge. And so, since the Tiramisu took very long to come, and the order was later cancelled, we can only comment on the ice cream. Our in-house ice cream aficionado played safe with chocolate and vanilla, but was pleasantly surprised by the rich, dark-to-the-point-of-bitter flavour of the chocolate ice cream!

Pricing at Sky Lounge is a bit expensive, with any item easily ranging to thousands, but the beautiful presentation, rich ingredients and the great Colombo-by-night view may suggest that it is worth the while, even if the taste and service indicate otherwise. If you’re looking to drop in for a night-cap with your romantic interest or a bunch of crazy stupid friends under the starlit sky, yes, Sky lounge is the place for you (weather permitting!). The standouts of our night were probably the seafood and ice cream, and our final words of advice are to drop in for the sunset, and stay on for those!

FRONTIER NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH: GOOD EATING IN COLOMBO 5 #1

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With the area around our office changing, what used to be a rather sad lack of variety of options for dining out is changing along with it. Several restaurants and eateries have opened up in the area in the past few months, and being responsible corporate citizens working here, we thought it our societal duty to go out and review them. The Frontier team loves food, and decided to take out some of its annual budget to fund food reviews as opposed to say, organizing a team cricket match. The results of our escapades can be found below.

Moon River

In contrast to its outside appearance, the restaurant itself was quite bright and vibrant. The menu was quite extensive catering predominantly to Chinese tourists and had authentic Chinese dishes. However it was quite noisy for weekday at lunchtime so, not the most suitable place to have a business meeting or relaxed meal. Plus, the desserts were quite the generic fruit salad and ice cream, leaving us no choice there.

To start off, we ordered a small portion of sweet corn with crab soup (Rs. 498), which arrived very fast and very hot. The waiter served each of us a bowl full – yes, a small portion is more than enough for 3 people. The soup was full of corn and was very filling.

Before we were done, our waiter turned up with the main dishes – a large portion of Hot butter cuttlefish (Rs. 898), and small portions of Seafood fried rice(Rs. 428) and Malaysian styled Fried Noodles(Rs. 598). The Seafood rice wasn’t exceptional (below par) but the hot butter cuttlefish covered up for it. One cannot have too much of hot butter cuttlefish. The Fried noodles were the star of all the dishes, being very saucy and spicy. Each dish was sufficient for about 3-4 people, which made the whole meal quite reasonable from a cost point of view.

For drinks we only ordered a Watermelon juice (Rs. 298) and water, which cost just a little bit less than the juice (Rs. 150). The watermelon juice was really thick and rich.

The service was quick and friendly, despite the number of customers dining in (and we are pretty sure we heard one of the Sri Lankan waiters speaking in Mandarin). However, the tables are placed quite close to each other which make it a bit cluttered.

The bill came to Rs. 3,651/- for 3 people but we had enough leftover to serve another 2. Overall, it would definitely be a place we would like to go again for a quick meal and ideal if you want to try out authentic Chinese dishes. Quite impressive bill with 22% comes as Taxes & Service charge. Other than that the prices are okay.

Plus, they gave us each Rs.100 discount vouchers – maybe a watermelon juice next time?

 

Kami Maki

Kami Maki is a small Japanese restaurant adjacent to Jawatte Road, whose exterior attempts to give the impression of a small cozy cottage with wooden tables and bunks placed outside. However, given the small amount of space inside, it may not be the best place to go to hang out with a big group of people, or have a conversation of a private nature.

The menu has quite an extensive and interesting list of Japanese food including the traditional Sushi, Sashimi and Nigiri. It also offers different types of Soup, salads and beverages. Since we have tried Sushi before, we decided to try something different at Kami Maki. So, we settled for Japanese fried rice, Teriyaki chicken rice burger and chicken Donburi (Japanese rice bowl) and a glass of Amberalla Juice.

The Ambarella juice (Rs.350) was fresh and not too sweet, and came with a straw in an old jam bottle, which, while it would have garnered stares of disapproval from our mothers, went well with the mixture of decadence and modernity that characterizes the place’s decor and feel. The Chicken Donburi (Rs.590) tasted wholesome with the boiled rice and sweet chicken blending well with the assorted vegetables and seasoning.

The Japanese Fried Rice was not like the usual fried rice we’re familiar with. It was offered in a bowl and there were rice that might be enough for two people. It was bit oily but overall the fried rice was tasty and good.

By the time we finished the main course; all three of us were quite full and didn’t have much space for desert. But, since the dessert menu was quite appealing we decided to take one portion of Tempura Fried Chocolate Cake with chocolate sauce (Rs. 450 with ice cream) back to office to have later.

The crispy fired cake served with chocolate ice cream was quite scrumptious. Everyone in office loved it. Definitely something we would try again later!

 

Hazari’s

Hazari’s is a cosy little eatery specializing in Arabic cuisine. With a rather homely ambiance, the lighting, while bright, is well augmented with the natural light streaming through the large windows they have in place of solid walls and goes well with the Arabian music playing in the background.

A few of us have ordered their shawarmas and their wraps before, which weren’t that filling and though they weren’t the best in Colombo, they were definitely tasty. This time we decided to order the “Hummus with Chicken”, followed by a “Gourmet Arabica Pizza”. Unfortunately, we were left waiting quite a while, but we figured that was only natural, given that we had ordered the pizza.

The Hummus with Chicken was the first to arrive served with a few slices of Arabic bread, it was hardly enough for one person. The Hummus served as a dip in which the chicken was mixed. It tasted rather bland and was, overall, rather disappointing and failed to complement the chicken.

The Gourmet Arabica Pizza, in sharp contrast to the Hummus, was well spiced and generously topped with meat, condiments and a thin layer of cheese – all placed on a thin crust pizza. All in all, it was very enjoyable and very easily secured its position as one of their signature dishes.

To complement the food, we ordered a mint lime soda, a mint fresh tea and an ice yoghurt shake. Living up to the many good things we had heard about their mint products, the mint lime soda was easily the best drink on the table, while the mint fresh tea came up short and was quite disappointing. The ice yoghurt was good, though very filling and not the best choice to go for after a heavy main dish.

Finally, we capped our order with a strawberry and cheese desert, stuffed in bread. It was not too sweet and tasted different to the deserts we are used to, specifically since the bread seemed to drown out the taste of the chocolate, dominating the dish, like eating chocolate sauce on soft pita bread. Though we think it could have been better with some thinner bread.

All in all, Hazari’s is a nice place to share a meal with some friends. Its service may be a little slow, but their portions are generous (except for the Hummus with Chicken!)

 

 

Domenico

The first of our party to enter the place was welcomed by the Chef himself. The ambiance is quite understated with the gregarious Italian chef and the clay oven adding to the atmosphere

We ordered a half&half pan pizza. One half comprised of Tandoori cuttle fish and the other butter chicken. We were quite satisfied with the size of the pizza, big enough to feed three medium rate eaters :). The pizza crust was really thin and well done. The butter chicken was not too great with no prominent flavours apart from the capsicum. The tandoori cuttle fish was better with the mozzarella cheese blending well with the cuttlefish on a thin crust. On hindsight we would have been better off ordering traditional toppings given that it’s an Italian chef whose forte may not be Indian flavours.

Tharini has good things to say about their four cheese pizza which she tried during her vegetarian/cheese pizza phase. It had a liberal amount of the different types of cheese with a just a hint of oil, so the taste was essentially of the cheese and a very thin base to compliment it. An ideal option for vegetarians and by far one of the best of its kind available here.

Next we tried their Bruschetta which was decent but we won’t be ordering it again. It felt like it was soaked in olive oil giving a very rich oily texture. The real taste of it was lost.

Despite being a “pizza” place the best part of our whole meal were the desserts. On the recommendation by the waiter we tried the Chocolate mousse which was wonderful with a rich and creamy texture. We also tried the Chocolate Tiramisu, quite different from the standard Tiramisu, it was more of a coffee infused sponge cake with a chocolate ganache, and however it was quite satisfying.

Located within walking distance (on a less humid, breezy day) from the Frontier office, it’s a quick and easy place to hit for a bite to eat.

We’re a little rusty putting our skills to work into analysing restaurants for a change, but we’re determined to improve! Of course, this means doing more food reviews to perfect the art. Yay!