Like any sane person, I’m crazy about good food. Even more so when I travel. After all, isn’t food a big part of travel? I know all my travels will be incomplete if I don’t savour the local delicacies and return with exotic flavours lingering along with my memories.
So naturally, one of the things I like to plan before I head somewhere is what and where I’m going to eat.
In Colombo, that meant paying the Ministry of Crab a visit.
The Ministry of Crab is a restaurant in Colombo, owned by two Sri Lankan cricketers – Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Located in Colombo’s old Dutch hospital area, it is one of the more expensive restaurants in the city. You’ll find more tourists there than locals. If you haven’t figured it out already, the centre of attraction here are the crabs. They also serve other seafood like clams, prawns and fish but it is the crabs, available in six different preparations, that people flock to this restaurant for.
During my trip to Sri Lanka, I had Colombo reserved for one night on my itinerary. While the day was spent exploring the city (lunch was a homely Sinhalese meal at a small 15-year old restaurant that uncle Upali took us to – yum!), I decided that dinner would be nowhere else but at the Ministry of Crab.
Of course, I waited till 6 in the evening to make a reservation. Of course, I assumed I would get a table. Of course, I was wrong.
(If you’re interested in reading about my procrastinating ways, check this.)
I’m not proud of this but I begged the maitre d’ to make an exception. I’ll sit at the bar, I whined. But no, that was full too. In fact, on that day, he said they’d stopped taking reservations since morning. So I pleaded some more.
Finally, the maitre d’ agreed to call me in case of a cancelled reservation. I gave him my name and number, and pleaded some more for good measure. Then I did a premature victory dance in my head.
He never called.
My mother and I left our Airbnb apartment, all dressed up, because I was so confident he would call. We decided to take a walk along Galle Face, so that as soon as the restaurant called we could hurry over to those beautiful crustaceans. He did say that there might be a cancellation at 8:45 or 9.
We walked the entire stretch of Galle Face but he never called.
I sat on a bench in silence, the wind messing with my hair, the waves mocking me, my mother by my side, waiting for me to make alternative dinner plans. For someone who usually has a plan (not for any of the important things in life, why would I do that), I was without any.
A hungry stomach and a broken heart on my first day in Sri Lanka.
I decided we could try out the Elephant House hot dogs that an ex-colleague of mine had recommended. They’re available at the Odel food court but also at one of the Keells supermarkets in the city. Not all of the Keells supermarkets, which I learnt the hard way that night.
This how the night’s events ensued:
Ask cop for directions. Cop hails metered auto. Auto takes us to nearest Keels supermarket. Supermarket turns out to be in the food court of a mall. Enter supermarket, ask security guard lady about Elephant House hot dogs, she says no Elephant House and hot dogs over. Repeat question with emphasis three more times. Guard lady says eat Malaysian food, it’s good. We smile. She repeats three times with emphasis. We say okay to be polite. We decide to pick up something from supermarket. Guard continues to insist we eat Malaysian food. We say, we need water and run inside supermarket.
To top it all off, as I was deciding between cheese and barbecue flavoured crackers, Air Supply’s All Out of Love started playing. Perfect. My failed date with the Ministry of Crab now had a soundtrack.
But I wasn’t going to let one foiled plan keep me from the Ministry. After we walked back to our apartment, appetites lost and a little bit of our sense of direction too, I realised that I could make it to the Ministry for lunch on my last day in Sri Lanka. Surely, a week was enough time to secure a reservation. (I called only two days late, I’ll never learn.)
Since I had a late flight to Bangalore, I made plans to leave Hikkaduwa, our last destination on the trip, and return to Colombo a little after noon rather than post lunch.
I am proud to report that on Sunday, the 19th of March 2016, at 2:00 PM sharp, my mother and I were seated at our table. That afternoon, as sad as I was to leave Sri Lanka, I couldn’t help but celebrate my last meal (for now) in the country at the coveted Ministry of Crab.
Have you been to the Ministry of Crab? What was your experience like? As always, the comments section is all yours.