Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City
Most people think Staten Island is only good for one thing – a free ferry that takes you by the Statue of Liberty. Casual foodies also know there’s some mighty serious pizza out on the forgotten borough. But it’s only the most hardcore and adventurous of food lovers who have been out to visit the rough neighborhood of Tompkinsville.
This (and nearby Stapleton) is where you can find Little Sri Lanka. In fact, a third of the Sri Lankan population in this country resides out here. So you better believe if there’s authentic Sri Lankan cuisine to be had, this is where you can find it.
I took the ferry one Saturday afternoon for the sole purpose of exploring this spice-laden and hugely flavorful cuisine. It took me a while to decide which of the many Sri Lankan restaurants to dine at, but I eventually settled on Lakruwana, which was reviewed relatively recently by the New York Times.
It’s probably the kitschiest of the restaurants (with huge masks and Buddhas spread around the dining room) and evokes the feeling that maybe you’re in the waiting room for a Disney World ride. But the menu looked pretty authentic and the reviews were good. I figured I’d give it a try for my first Little Sri Lanka experience.
The flavors were explosive. While nothing I tasted was sufficiently spicy enough, the unique flavor components came through and I felt I was tasting things for the first time. Their weekend buffet was an amazing deal and had a wide range of delicious dishes, from a minty kale and coconut to creamy dal (lentils) to fiery fried chicken nuggets to smooth and sweet mango mousse for dessert. It was a great bargain at $11.95 and featured a wide variety of meats and vegetables.
I had to go a step further and order a traditional dish that was not part of the buffet. It’s called lamprie and it was first introduced to Sri Lanka by the Dutch colonists centuries ago. A little package arrives folded into a banana leaf. It’s in this flavor vessel that all sorts of ingredients are baked. You have sweet caramelized onions, smoky eggplant, cashew curry, basmati rice, and nuggets of meat. Not to mention a fried/boiled egg and a fish cutlet crowning the acheivement. Mixed together, there were so many different flavors and textures, that I was upset I had not discovered this previously.
Who knew discovering new and authentic dishes is another win for Staten Island? There’s so much more to this borough than most people expect – just like a loaded banana leaf-wrapped lamprie.
|668 Bay Street (at Broad Street),
Stapleton, Staten Island