By Natasha Fernandopulle
There are a handful of restaurants in Colombo that excite me... and among them is, Asylum.
Situated at the Arcade at Independence Square the name signifies what the building was earlier. But it is not so much the edgy name as it is the food that will keep you coming back again and again. The menu is concise while the atmosphere is relaxed and inviting. Sip on a cool beverage at the bar while you wait your turn to be seated and I guarantee you that the wait will be more than worth it. Be it the delicious Beef and Betel Leaf Cigars (Rs 860) or Pork Roulade (Rs 1,750), your taste buds will dance with sheer delight.
The Beef and Betel Leaf Cigars consist of perfectly seasoned beef wrapped in betel leaves and served with a delicious, light dipping sauce. The earthiness of the betel leaves are the ideal accompaniment to the beef while the dipping sauce gives this perfectly flavoured dish that finishing touch.
If you love your crispy skin pork you will love their Twice Cooked Pork Belly with Mixed Garden Herbs and Spicy Palm Sauce (Rs 1,250). The crunchy pork and the fresh, crispy garden salad which consists of coriander, mint and basil leaves, crispy rice and a spicy dressing of chilli, tamarind and palm sugar make this starter one of the most amazing treats on the menu. A more light option for a starter is the Char Grilled Squid with Passion Fruit Explosion (Rs 1,200). When I mean light, I mean that it is not fried but don’t be fooled by the subtle name of the dish because the chilli in the passion fruit sauce packs a hot punch – The ideal accompaniment for that evening drink.
These and the other scrumptious dishes on the menu have been carefully watched over and created by Chef Jerome La’ Brooy and Chef Hani. Chef Jerome is no stranger to the Sri Lankan culinary scene having created and revamped the menu at Urban Kitchen at Arpico. Asylum is a step up, in terms of price and quality. They make it a point to maintain the essence of the food without over cooking and adding unnecessary flavours into it. “The idea is to look after your produce and treat it with respect,” Chef Jerome says, and it is clear that this simple philosophy echoes in the delicious food at Asylum.
Among their stunning mains is the Pork Roulade, that of pork loin wrapped with bacon and then stuffed with sage and mushrooms. It is served on a dreamy bed of pumpkin and potato mash and drizzled with port wine sauce (Rs 1,750). To really understand how delicious this dish is, you need to try it!
I’d say that the Paella Mixata for two (Rs 3,500), is one of the most colourful dishes on their menu not just in terms of aesthetics but it’s flavour as well. With perfectly cooked chicken, prawns, calamari and a generous helping of mussels and chorizo. The savoury short grained rice which is cooked in a saffron broth has that delicious earthy flavour of garlic as well as tomato and peas. In a word this dish is fantastic.
As stuffed as I was, having sampled so much food, I was told that their desserts are as amazing as their mains, and they were right. Deciding on which dessert was the better one among the soft and creamy Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis (Rs 700) and the rich Baked Chocolate Cheese Cake (Rs 650) was no easy task.
So I’d say, give them both a try on your visit there. I also hear that the Apple Strudel with Vanilla Ice Cream (Rs 650) and the Baked Alaska (Rs 750) are fabulous too.