Just as ethnic enclaves like Jackson Heights in Queens and Brighton Beach, Brooklyn enjoy a well-established reputation for their unique culinary offerings, I’m shocked that an army of rabid foodies has not swooped in and occupied the sleepy bastion of Sri Lankan cuisine in Tompkinsville, Staten Island. Obviously, people are still unaware of the gustatory delights of “rice and curry,” the collective name for Sri Lanka’s national dish, or they are still convinced that it is simply an extension of “Indian” food (in quotes because there are many Indian foods, depending upon the various regions). But the winds of change are blowing, and hopefully they will lead you directly to NYC’s “forgotten” borough.
You’ve already received the skinny on the fabulous San Rasa restaurant on Bay Street and Victory. Further up the incline that is Victory Blvd., at the intersection of Cebra St., (a short 10-minute walk) you will find the nexus of the Staten Island Sri Lankans. This includes the adjacent restaurants, New Asha, the first Sri Lankan spot on the block; and Lak Bojun, a relative newcomer; as well as several grocery stores that deal in Sri Lankan products. Also around the corner on Cebra St. is the Colombo Café. Since I have previously enjoyed the rice and curry at New Asha, a fantastic little eatery that has also been covered in The Village Voice and New York Magazine, I decided to give the new kid on the block some shine.
While the infamous “Burgher lady” (from the No Reservations: Sri Lanka show), might object to the “authenticity” of this lampreis, I found it both delicious and genuine in flavor. All of the elements were present–a huge mound of yellow Basmati rice surrounded by chicken curry, eggplant curry, jackfruit (a vegetable indigenous to Sri Lanka), seeni sambol, cashew curry, a fish cutlet, and even a hard-boiled egg. (NOTE: traditional lampreis includes a mixed meat curry of chicken, pork, and lamb; blanchan, a kind of sambol made of dried shrimp; and short-grain samba rice). Despite the huge size of this lampreis, I could tell that it was made for Sri Lankans because even when I finished all the curries and condiments a large amount of rice remained. My friend, in fact, took hers home for another day. To pay $9 for a generous, tasty plate of food and still have some left over for tomorrow’s lunch seems like a deal to me, so Lak Bojun gets the big thumbs up. But don’t sleep on New Asha. To tell you the truth, I was way too full to eat there this time, but next time I’m in Staten Island, I’ll give you an up-to-date rundown on this popular joint. The same goes for Colombo Café.
I did chance upon a new grocery store, too. Well, Lanka Grocery (formerly Grocery Lanka), is not exactly new, but they are under new management in the person of Jay Jayathunga, who carries every Sri Lankan product imaginable. From lotus root to fresh banana blossoms to Maldive fish to jaggery (palm sugar) to a cornucopia of spices, whatever product you can find on the island of Sri Lanka you can now find on the island of Staten. This is good news for all you home cooks out there in the New York-metro area who want to see for yourself and how quick and easy Sri Lankan food is to prepare and what amazing results you will get for your efforts.
New Asha Restaurant
322 Victory Blvd.
Staten Island, NY 10301
353 Victory Blvd.
Staten Island, NY 10301