Words: Kirsten Durward Photos: Monica Tindall
Overlooking the deep blue swimming pool and shady columns of Residence by Uga Escapes, Rare offers a choice of seating areas, al fresco in the flower lined courtyard or inside in the cool and elegant interior. Elegant black and white prints line the wall, giving a slightly nostalgic edge to this contemporary fusion restaurant.
Rare’s food concept is distinctly original with clever Sri Lankan twists on originals and elegant platings of locally inspired dishes. Residence manager Kaleel explains that they want to keep things fresh, to challenge diners palates with different flavours, different textures and different cooking methods. For us this is hands down the best meal we have had in Sri Lanka, and we are confident the food at Rare could hold its own in any city in the world.
The lunch menu features a range of intriguing sounding soups, starters and salads. I’m immediately taken with the idea of the Ambaralla Gin Soup (Rs 550). Ambaralla is a green firm and crunchy fruit native to this region. This is like a Sri Lankan take on gazpacho and a chilled soup always goes down well in the tropics. The refreshing taste takes a little sweetness from the fruit. Another chilled soup on the menu is Green Cucumber and Coriander (Rs 550). This one is a darker green with a delightful looking frothy top. First spoonful reveals a deep and slightly spiced taste.
Cold soups may be wonderful for the climate, but I have to say my favourite soup selection of the night is Prawn Curry with Crab Flakes (Rs 800). A base of thick pumpkin is perfectly seasoned. Flakes of fresh crab and plump pink prawns are scattered through this cumin and coriander infused delight. This bowlful wowed me and took my spoon scraping right down to the last vestiges. Superb.
Tuna and Lotus Root Salad (Rs 750) impresses on presentation, with the deep colour of the fish enhanced by a generous dollop of roe. ‘The lotus root is fabulous!’ exclaims Monica, and indeed it is. With a sinuous texture and light crunch, it perfectly complements the fresh clean tuna slices and the light salad of local leaves.
I have to admit to not being too much of an aubergine fan, but the base of Spicy Eggplant with Crispy Calamari (Rs 600) has me won over. A silky mélange that works so well with the breaded soft calamari twists. This combination vies for dish of the night. The sneaky spice in the crumb is somewhat moreish and the tiny pea shoots bring a hint of freshness. A well-conceived dish.
We are always on the look out for good vegetarian dishes and we spot a few appetite whetting ones on Rare’s dinner menu so slant our main course ordering in that direction. Mung Dhal Wellington (Rs 1 100) is a creative take on a classic. Light puff pastry encases a warm, dense dahl with detectable coriander flavours. What adds a touch of genius is the pairing with a cool panna cotta, elevating what could have been a simple hearty dish to another level altogether. We enjoy the contrast cool and clean with warm and dense. Delicious.
Possibly our favourite dish of the whole trip is a divine mushroom and bean concoction (Rs 1,100). Mushrooms lightly marinated with green chili lie across a pate of coriander marinated mixed beans in a harmony of flavours. The mushrooms are dense like slivers of fine steak, and the bean texture is slippery smooth. Presentation, taste and texture; this is a beautifully executed plate.
We’re told that Rare is the restaurant of choice for discerning vegetarians in Colombo, and we can certainly attest to the quality of the dishes. Meat eaters will not be disappointed either, as there are a plethora of choices on the menu for you too. Spare Ribs with Pineapple Puree (Rs 1 450) is a generous plateful of no fewer than three pieces of rib. There is plenty of thick well-seasoned sticky meat on these bones, so don’t be afraid of getting your fingers dirty! Once again it’s the little touches and flavours which make the dish special. This time it’s the smoothly spiced pineapple puree that has our forks clashing together. The house-made garlic and apple chutney is simply divine and demands to be loaded on each forkful of melting meat.
If you don’t like chili, don’t be afraid to try the Chili Chicken with Crushed Pumpkin (Rs 1 100). There is barely a tinge of the spice in the dish. The soft dark meat melts away at the touch of a fork. Spear it up with a smear of delectable crushed pumpkin then refresh your mouth with a bite of apple cucumber relish. Delectable.
We really don’t have room for dessert but Monica is determined that I try one of the house-made ice creams, which she has been raving about since her last visit. And surely enough the tamarind scoop accompanying our apple pie is a perfect melting texture and a truly original fresh flavour. The short pastry on the pie is crisp and supports the sweet apple filling.
Whether you are an in-house guest, staying elsewhere or an oh-so-lucky resident of Colombo, Rare is a treat you should not miss.
Reasons to visit: simply delicious fusion food; original flavour combinations; beautiful plating; excellent service.
Rare at Residence
20 Park Street
+94 (0) 11567300