3.286 Lobster Tempered in Spices

Cycle 3 – Item 286

17 (Wed) October 2012

Lobster Tempered in Spices

2.5

The Lagoon

(Cinnamon Grand Hotel)

-Colombo, Sri Lanka-

44th Conference of the Asia-Pacific Academic Consortium on Public Health: Day 5 of 5

In Colombo.  Here to attend and present at APACPH44.  Heading back tonight.

LUNCH

For lunch, we went to the local Korean restaurant Han Gook Gwan.  I can’t fathom why anyone would want to eat Korean food just 12 hours prior to flying back to Korea.

So, I didn’t order anything, though I did taste some of the food out of curiosity.  The kimchi was a travesty.  The mandu had gone bad, which didn’t stop the others from finishing it anyway.  At that point, my disgust turned physical and I left.

Incidentally, I never got around to eating lunch, which meant that I was starving by dinnertime, which may explain in part why I was so overwhelmed by my experience at The Lagoon.

And so Sri Lanka becomes the 8th country and Colombo the 19th city outside of Korea where I’ve eaten Korean food.

DINNER

The Lagoon is a seafood restaurant.  Mostly South Asian in character.  It’s one of the most famous/popular restaurants in the city among tourists/expats, ranked #6 on tripadvisor.com (see tripadvisor.com on Colombo Restaurants), just one spot below Chutneys, where I had lunch yesterday.  Both are located in the Cinnamon Grand Hotel.  The main draw is the fresh seafood, which customers can select along with a method of preparation.  Most items are priced according to weight.  The menu also offers standardized dishes.

For our final dinner in Colombo, we went all out.  No question of price, just getting whatever struck our fancy.

The menu also offered other preparation methods, such as Chinese or Continental.

The food was excellent.  The lobster was the highlight: the savory curry spices pairing exquisitely with the sweetness of the succulent meat – a solid 3.5, it probably wouldn’t have merited a 4.0 on its own.  The other dishes were also great but not extraordinary, though together made quite a fine feast.  The final bill for the four of us, including drinks, plus tax and service charge, came out to 40,602 rupees (about US$315) – the lobster alone was 12,668 rupees – an extravagance by any standard.  We had a great time.  The 4.0 rating was more about the overall meal, one of the best that I’ve had in recent memory.

During my brief stay, admittedly through limited exposure, I observed 3 things about Sri Lankan cuisine.  First, it appeared to share a lot in common with Indian: similar spices, similar methods of preparation, similar eating practices.  Certain specific dishes aside (e.g., lamprais), my untrained palate couldn’t really tell that much of a fundamental difference.  It reminded me of the Thai-Cambodian dynamic that I discovered during my recent visit to Phnom Penh.  Interestingly, at least in the tiny corner of Colombo where I roamed, Indian restaurants looked to enjoy higher status than their Sri Lankan counterparts.  Second, one aspect of Sri Lankan food that was immediately and consistently noticeable was how hot it was, much hotter than anything that I’ve experienced with Indian food, including the Indian food in Sri Lanka.  The supermarkets that I visited did have large supplies of chili powder.  Even the ketchup dipping sauce accompanying the finger foods at the APACPH conference coffee breaks was laced with heat.  And third, whereas the spices in Indian sauces tend to be fully ground and blended smoothly together, the Sri Lankan style seemed to prefer keeping the spices intact – whole cardamom pods, whole curry leaves, whole peppercorns, whole coriander seeds – popping or crunching at every bite.  Not really my thing, but I suppose that it could be pleasant for those who can appreciate the full effect of such spices.

Sunset in Sri Lanka along the Indian Ocean, as seen from my hotel room at the Taj Samudra.

I enjoyed the food, but I don’t think that I’m ready to eat it at every meal every day.  I’ll be glad to get some comfort food when I get home.

MIDNIGHT SNACK

From Colombo en route to Singapore.

Seafood with Egg Noodles (2.5)

I was exhausted, sleeping when the dinner service came around.  I accepted the meal, took a photo, barely touched it, went back to sleep.

BREAKFAST

From Singapore en route to Incheon.

Vegetarian Curries with Steamed Rice (3.0)

I was exhausted, sleeping when the dinner service came around.  I accepted the meal, took a photo, barely touched it, went back to sleep.

(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)

(See also RESTAURANTS IN SRI LANKA)

(See also KOREAN OUTSIDE KOREA)

(See also IN FLIGHT)

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