What a treat! This Sri Lankan restaurant on Staten Island is rated by the New York Times as one of the 100 best restaurants in the city. Rightly so. Everything we tried was excellent - complex flavors, nicely spicy but not roaring hot, with no hint of the harsh bite of poorly prepared spice dishes. Everything resonated in the mouth followed by after tastes of exotic echos.
According to a review in The New York Times: “I know of no other place in town that goes quite so far to summon up the world where its owners were born. Lakruwana may be New York’s most elaborate realization of the immigrant restaurateur’s dream: a shrine to another culture that can soothe homesickness in some patrons and kindle a thrilling sense of discovery in others.” The exterior is a marvel of painted images and a huge door that truly deserves the adjective, “awesome.” As Billa noted, the interior felt like being inside a Sri Lankan museum. Everywhere one looked there were Sri Lankan artifacts.
Sri Lanka is the small island with a tear-drop shape at the tip of the Indian subcontinent. Its name means resplendent island. It’s also been known as Ceylon and Serendib (from which the word serendipity was derived). This part of the world is known for spicy-hot food. When I (Luci) visited Sri Lanka some years ago I found the food absolutely marvelous but the hottest food I had ever eaten - despite having arrived there after two months in India, thinking that my mouth had gotten used to the hottest of hot food. Nope! But Lakruana, as have most Indian and Sri Lankan restaurants in the United States, tones it down for our inexperienced taste buds.
On weekends, Lakruana offers both a la carte and buffet choices. Billa and Michele opted for lamprais, the restaurant’s signature dish touted by the NY Times.
Lamprais is a Dutch-influenced Sri Lankan dish of basmati rice, stewed vegetables and curried fish or meat wrapped and steamed in a banana leaf. Billa ordered shrimp lamprais and Michele took the chicken. Billa described the dish as a fragrant mélange of cashews, rice, eggplant, fish patty ball, and hard-boiled egg, the shrimp hidden beneath the rice. Michele thought of it as art, visual and gustatory:
“…bundled in a banana leaf, once opened it beautifully displayed all of its components which I found to be very aromatic, savory, sweet, with just the right amount of spice.”
Luci went for the buffet and tried a little bit of everything, except the eggs because she is not an egg fan. Two rice dishes were great, the chicken and various vegetable dishes were outstanding. Only the pork, decidedly tough and not that all tasty, disappointed.
As for drinks, there is no alcohol. From the many juices available, Billa and Michele both chose passion fruit juice. They found it just right - not too sweet but sweet enough to balance the slight spiciness of the lamprais. Luci went for iced tea. It had a rich and delicious tea taste but was a bit sweet for her taste.
The takeaway - if you haven’t already, go there! You will have a thrilling adventure, a brief tour to Sri Lanka with its wonderful food and exotic culture.