Sri Lanka occupies a special place in my heart. It’s a splendid mango-shaped country aglow with stunning people, equally beautiful sights and a glorious array of unique cuisine. Food, family and tradition are intricately tied together, lending their dishes an indescribable homemade flavor not easy to emulate.
Every time I take a bite of a Sri Lankan coconut-based curry or fiery kothu roti sliced flatbread, I’m transported to a steaming hot backyard in northern Sri Lanka where I once rolled hundreds of nutty, round laddu snacks with the locals before my best friend’s wedding. When I found these wonderful restaurants 4000 miles from the Indian Ocean, I could relive these memories and the genuine taste of Sri Lanka. Here are my top five authentic Sri Lankan restaurants in Tokyo.
The Waseda area has always been a haven for international food options and Apsara is no exception. You may have to join the eager spice-hunters congregating outside but believe me – it’s worth the wait. The name Apsara means a female spirit of the clouds.
You’ll be spoiled for choice with the amount of food on offer; Apsara’s seven-page menu has everything from devilled fish to a banana leaf parcel filled with Sri Lankan curry. I opted for the latter and was far from disappointed. Coming wrapped up like a Christmas present, unraveling the glory within was half the fun. I grabbed the roti, flatbread and dived in Sri Lankan style. An explosion of 40 exotic spices that had bonded with fluffy basmati rice filled my mouth and I couldn’t stop.
Where: 3 19-1 Nishiwaseda, Shinjuku-ku
Not far from Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, you’ll find a swanky Sri Lankan eatery that’s bursting with personality. Located in The Artcomplex Center of Tokyo, Bandara Lanka revels in its location with artistically plated meals and a cabin-inspired interior. Dine with the many koi fish on the terrace and sip on an eclectic selection of Ceylon tea (I recommend the bourbon vanilla and rooibos infusion). Bandara, the man himself who comes from the historical city of Kandy, will be waiting to greet you with a smile.
The restaurant serves one-plate lunches that include an array of moreish curries and sides including pol sambola (coconut relish), wattakka kalu pol (pumpkin curry) parippu (lentil curry) and a crispy papadum jutting out like a shark at sea. The lunch deal also includes sweet Sri Lankan cakes for dessert. If you’re aching for something specific, the al la carte menu will satisfy your cravings with rice-packed biriyani and other scrumptious dishes.
Where: 1-2-9 Daikyocho, Shinjuku-ku
3. Ceylon Inn
This distinctive restaurant is hard to miss when strolling around Nakameguro, with vegetation sprouting from the storefront, a pack of wild animal sculptures greeting passersby and an alluring aroma coming from within. Pass the front door and discover a world of fascinating décor. While inside feast your eyes on the exquisitely tiled roof, Sri Lankan inspired paintings and the ornate wooden furniture.
Ceylon Inn is a sensation among the Tokyo Sri Lankan community and its 25 years of experience attests to that. The kitchen can cook up any coconut-based concoction — consider nutty cashew or minced chicken curry. Grab a string hopper biriyani and a watalappan (coconut custard pudding) for dessert before finishing off with a shot of Sri Lankan arrack made from the sap of coconut flowers.
Where: 2 7-8 Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku
Araliya Lanka offers a chilled oasis along the Gotanda section of the Meguro River. Its spacious seating allows around 20 guests to sit comfortably with potted-plant dining partners that cultivate a feeling of calm. This peaceful atmosphere, along with a love for spicy delicious food, is why people keep coming back.
Reasonable prices and Sri Lankan staples such as hopper, a pancake bowl made from fermented rice and coconut milk, make it a must for a light afternoon or relaxing evening meal. The midday lunch deal includes a castle of rice surrounded by a motley moat of aromatic curries. Helpful staff will be there to adjust your portion or facilitate your spice tolerance. End the journey with a traditional Ayurvedic herbal tea.
Where: 2 12−15 Nishigotanda, Shinagawa-ku
With three restaurants in Minami-Aoyama, Monzen-Nakacho and Jimbocho, Taprobane is taking Tokyo on a spice trip with lovingly collected ingredients imported directly from Sri Lanka. Owner Kapila Bandara’s idea for the restaurant was born out of a desire to inform local residents what Sri Lankan food is. His mother, who still lives there, has a starring role in selecting spices that develop a homegrown taste.
Ayurveda, traditional Sri Lankan medicine, is a key ethos of Taprobane and factors into the choice of produce. The bistro’s experienced chefs use high-quality rice rich in minerals and other healthy ingredients to make a kaleidoscope of dishes: fish cutlets, kola mallum (cabbage leaves and shredded coconut) and mee-kiri (creamy curd) to name a few. The Uva leaf milk tea is highly recommended too.
Where: 2 2-15-1317 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku
For more tasty and rare foodie finds check out the following: