Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sigiri Sri Lanka – 6th St & 1st Ave

Sigiri Sri Lanka
91 1st Ave.

Sigiri Sri Lanka, one of the few Sri Lankan restaurants in Manhattan, is nestled in between two Indian restaurants just off the East Village’s Curry Row. Sri Lankan cCurries and biriyanis bear a resemblance to familiar Indian dishes, but Sri Lanka’s culinary identity is found in dishes like Pork Black Curry, Chicken Lamprais, and String Hopper Kotthu. The menu descriptions of these items (found below the jump) sound promising, but are ultimately disappointingly bland and completely forgettable.

Dim lighting can be effective in certain settings, but being able to see food is an important part of tasting it, particularly so when trying food from a new country. Sigiri Sri Lanka is incredibly dark, and when eating the Chicken Lamprais, it is hard to tell if your fork had found a piece of chicken, fish, or plantain (sadly, a larger slight to the food than to the lighting).

Sri Lankan food is rumored to be spicier than Indian food, which I find hard to believe based on my experiences here and with Indian food, but if this is true, it is not artfully done at Sigiri Sri Lanka. It is difficult to discern individual spice elements within a dish and also across the different dishes - the overall impression is of an amalgamation of spices dumped into the pot with too heavy a hand, and with no attention to balance.

Sigiri Sri Lanka has received popular reviews for their food on websites like FoodieView and Citysearch, but there is a bevy of similarly priced restaurants in the area that serve better food. I don’t know if Sigiri Sri Lanka was having an off night or if I just don’t like Sri Lankan food, but I doubt I’ll give the bland darkness of this restaurant and its food a second chance.

Menu descriptions, mentioned above:
Chicken Lamprais: a “special occasion” dish with Dutch influence, consisting of flavored rice served with chicken, fish cutlet, ash plantains, and egg, all wrapped in a banana leaf and baked in a low temperature oven.

String Hopper Kotthu: a street vendor specialty of spaghetti-like strings of rice-flour dough squeezed through a sieve onto small woven trays, before being steamed, chopped into shreds, and stir fried with vegetables, onions, and egg.


  1. Don't give up yet. We lived in Cincinnati briefly, and there was a phenomenal Sri Lankan restaurant there. We did not like Cincy, but we still miss that restaurant. Thanks for your article, it brings back good memories.

  2. I have yet to learn what real Sri lankan cuisine is.

  3. Oh dear, how disappointing! I hope you have better luck elsewhere!
    (By the way, I recently made a few Sri Lankan dishes for some friends, if you're interested in having a look..