Traditional South Indian and Sri Lankan Home-Style Cooking is what the menu proclaims. Most of the week South Indian cuisine is featured but there are a couple of special meals each week highlighting Sri Lankan cuisine. Is this a first for Houston? It's a first for me anyway.
Across the top of the thali are dahi, kheer with paper thin sliced almonds, chutney and dahl, at 2 o'clock is a cabbage, carrot and pea poriyal (stir-fry); there are two pakoras, sambar and an onion curry. This was some of the most mildly spiced Indian cuisine I think I've ever encountered. The onion curry was the spiciest; I did find a dark red chilli in the chutney and eagerly bit into it but apparently all the seeds had been removed. Nevertheless I especially enjoyed the sambar, kheer and poriyal.
A table card announced the Saturday lunch special which is a Sri Lankan Feast served on a banana leaf for just $7.99/$8.99. I already knew about that from online reviews and this visit was no more than a preview: I was mostly interested in sampling Sri Lankan cuisine and I made it a point to be there the next Saturday for my first taste.
I had the restaurant all to myself when I arrived, luckily, as one of the staff took the time to explain all the dishes that would be served and even a bit about how some of them are prepared. I didn't witness any of the later patrons (and the place was full by the time I left) get such attention, but then, many of them were probably expats.
The banana leaf turned out to be real this time and the feast started with a cup of Neer Moru, the Sri Lankan version of buttermilk, with minced onion, ginger and curry leaf. It was a very cooling, refreshing variation on the spicier Indian buttermilks I've had.
By this time I was ready for a second helping of the sambol which I was eating like a side rather than a condiment. The restaurant was filling up and servers with their stainless buckets were passing by, doling out portions. The meal is served in stages and there was never a time to get a 'big picture' of the whole meal but the next several offerings came in quick succession.
According to the table card and the server's explanation, there was supposed to be a salad course before the chicken curry but I never received that. Perhaps as compensation I did get a complimentary serving of the main dish for the veg. version of the feast, a pumpkin curry. I had passed on the Veg. Feast when the server had mentioned the pumpkin curry as I am already just about pumpkin-ed out for this year, but this would have made a very satisfactory entree. Unfortunately I neglected to take a picture of it.
The meal also included portions of steaming, puffy, Sri Lankan Red Rice and a serving of basmati rice.
Portions are unlimited for this feast. Many patrons were taking multiple portions of some of the dishes. I asked for slightly larger portions of some items when they were originally served but the only ones I got seconds on were the sambol and the chicken. I left very satisfied.
Service dragged a bit as the restaurant got very crowded. Some dishes were at room temp, which is not ideal to me but not a big issue. I imagine with a rather small kitchen it's difficult to juggle so many different items and keep them all warm, perhaps.
Next up for me will be a visit on a Thursday evening for the Sri Lanka/Kerala Dinner.
Urban Spoon has reviews dated in 2012 but YELP says the restaurant is three months old and that was confirmed by the owner. Maybe an earlier incarnation folded, I don't know but I had never heard of this place until recently.