Monday, June 14, 2010

I Love New York: Sri Lankan Brunch


I've said it many times before, but we really are blessed in this maddening, crazy city of ours. As a food and wine lover, this is doubly so. Oh, sure, anyone with enough money can hit the high-end places, but where's the fun in that? You're almost guaranteed a great experience (note I said almost, not always) every time. The real thrill is in finding that little hole in the wall with authentic food that delivers a great bang for the buck. While these still exist in Manhattan, it's becoming harder than ever to find them.


Which is why we headed to Staten Island with some friends this past weekend. Of course, there's another benefit to leaving Manhattan's steel and concrete canyons: you're reminded how beautiful Lady Liberty is, and how NYC is composed of islands and waterways that are woefully under-used (though, truth be told, this is changing). Best of all, of course, the picturesque ride on the ferry is free. Yes, you read that right, FREE. In one of the most expensive cities in the world, a 20-minute boat ride across NY Bay is completely FREE. Talk about a deal!


Sri Lanka is, from what my expat friends tell me, a gorgeous place with some amazingly delicious food, a feast for the eyes as well as for the palate. Despite a horrendously long civil war that recently ended, or maybe because of it, the food is filling and full of bright flavors, and frankly just looks very joyous. So when one of them recommended Sanrasa restaurant in Staten Island, I jumped at the chance to try something new.


To say I was not disappointed is putting it mildly. Yes, it was slightly spicy, but I like spicy food (whether my body likes it or not is another story). The buffet was full of aromatic curries: chicken curry (good), mutton curry (fantastic), fish curry (good), peas with garlic cloves (yummy but not sure anyone was kissing me after that, however...), delicious eggplant, and collard greens chopped up into tiny bits. Everything sits on a bed of saffron rice and vermicelli (see pic above), then it's all eaten together at the same time.


An earthy cashew sauce was added to the plate, and seemed to somehow bring everything together. Man, this was good but rich stuff!


And as if that wasn't enough, the waiter dropped off baskets of fried fish balls at our table, like little cannonballs of fishy goodness. You'd think this was all horrendously filling, and while it did fill me up temporarily, I soon found myself heading back to the buffet for more. Gluttony, you win!


On the ride back to Manhattan, we were chased (and eventually passed) by a feathered companion. Watching him glide quietly alongside us helped me digest this fantastic meal, and reminded me why I love this city so much. Sometimes you forget the riches that are right at your doorstep until you step outside of your little world.

Now, of course the big question: what wines should I bring next time?

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