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Eat and Drink

Sri Lankan restaurants on Staten Island

When you consider cuisines that are popular on Staten Island, Sri Lankan probably isn't the first that comes to mind.

But in a borough laden with delicious Italian food, this South Asian cuisine has found a firm foothold in North Shore neighborhoods, attracting both Sri Lankan natives and adventurous eaters. If you like easier-to-find Indian or Thai food, you're sure to find something you'll like in Sri Lankan cooking, which lands somewhere between those cuisines. There are lots of curries, but they're a little lighter than you might be used to in Indian cuisine, and there's lots of fish, coconut and other bright and tart flavors.

From quick, no-frills spots to lushly decorated sit-down restaurants with sprawling buffets, there's no shortage of options to try -- and luckily for those willing to commute for good food, they're all pretty close to the Staten Island Ferry.

New Asha Sri Lanka Restaurant

New Asha is a tiny restaurant that packs
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

New Asha is a tiny restaurant that packs big flavor into its food and is served by its amiable owner, Vijayakumari Devadas (better known in the neighborhood as Viji). In front of Devadas is a platter of Sri Lankan classics: (clockwise, from back left) patties known as string hoppers, rice flour that's pressed into noodles and served in a disc shape; coconut sambol, a spicy dried coconut chutney; milk hodi, or milk gravy; and chicken curry. Combine atop a string hopper and you'll have a deliciously spicy and well-balanced meal.

What would Devadas recommend that a newcomer to the cuisine try? "I give them a little bit of everything," she said. (New Asha, 322 Victory Blvd., 718-420-0649)

Dosa Garden

Just across the street from New Asha is
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

Just across the street from New Asha is Dosa Garden, which describes itself as an Indo-Lankan restaurant. On the menu alongside more familiar Indian fare are Sri Lankan specialties like pittu, or cakes made of steamed rice flour and grated coconut, served with coconut sauce and sambol.

"A lot of people, they like the Sri Lankan, they come from other places, from the ferry just to come here," manager Kandee Thambiah said. "We have a lot of Sri Lankan restaurants here. They have a choice."

Among the popular choices are different variations of kottu roti -- a dish that smothers torn pieces of roti bread in various kinds of curries and sauces.

Of course, given the name, dosas and other southern Indian cuisine are also on the menu. Pictured here is an onion tomato utthappam, a denser version of a dosa. (Dosa Garden, 323 Victory Blvd., Staten Island, 718-420-0919, dosagardenny.com)

Lakruwana

If you want to combine great food with
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

If you want to combine great food with stunning ambiance, Lakruwana is the place to go. The lovingly decorated restaurant looks almost like a museum -- so much so, in fact, that its owner Lakruwana Wijesinghe is considering adding one, according to his daughter, Julia Wijesinghe.

"He really likes to show off Sri Lankan tradition," she said, and it shows in the intricate dining room.

But more important than the decor is the
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

But more important than the decor is the food, and Lakruwana delivers. The best dish for a newcomer to the cuisine is probably the lamprais, pictured here with curried chicken. This dish is a by-product of Dutch colonial times in Sri Lanka, and it combines rice, meat and cashews in a banana leaf.

Wijesinghe said many of the restaurant's customers come from outside of Staten Island, especially Manhattan and Brooklyn, and are looking to try Sri Lankan food for the first time. Many come during the weekend for the Saturday and Sunday buffet -- the Village Voice named it the best buffet of 2015, which helped give its profile a nice boost. (Lakruwana, 668 Bay St., Staten Island, 347-857-6619, lakruwana.com)

San Rasa

If you're looking for authentic, it doesn't get
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

If you're looking for authentic, it doesn't get more authentic than cooking with spices imported directly from Sri Lanka, as San Rasa boasts. The comprehensive menu offers a slew of specialties, including kottu roti, lamprais and all kinds of curry. If that's not enough for you, check out the all-you-can-eat Sunday buffet. Or if you're in a rush, consider grabbing a maalu paan, or fish bun. Tucked inside a bread with just a touch of sweetness is a stuffing of spiced fish. It's a bit like a curried crabcake sandwich, but better. (19 Corson Ave., Staten Island, 718 420-0027, sanrasa.com)

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