Stuff Posh People Like: Saivara Fare
In Colombo, we're blessed with an abundance of restaurants serving Tamil vegetarian food. The usual suspects like the Mathuras and the Shanthi Vihars litter the streets of Colombo, serving acres and acres of dosa nightly.
My favourite such place is a little less well known. It's also not as nice but 1) it's also cheaper 2) that's part of the fun. New Letchumi Bhawan is on Ernest De Silva Mw (formerly Flower Road) in between Cotton Collection and Leather Collection. It's an odd bird in that herd but it's an awfully tasty one.
For breakfast, they have idiappam or string hoppers. I order in Sinhalese so they automatically bring coconut sambol and kiri hodi with it. But I always ask for the sambar and the thosai sambol instead, which is much tastier. The waiter - a guy in a sarong - brings over a small metal bucket of thosai sambol and a big metal bucket of sambar.
Picking out the pieces of pumpkin that dot the sambar, I begin my meal. 5 strings later, I ask for the side dishes. Soya curry, dry curried chick peas, potatoes in a light garlic curry and tempered spicy potatoes are the standard ones which come in tiny silver dishes. One of those dishes and 10 or 15 strings later, I ask for the bill and a plain tea (which comes in a tiny glass).
I am LKR 100 or so in the hole. Leaving a generous(!) LKR 20 tip, I get up and walk out, conscious of the need to realign my posture to my new centre of gravity, 1 or 2 feet below what it used to be.
On days when I feel adventurous, I have the wadais - parippu (dhal), potato or ulundu - which those who know have given me excellent reviews about. And on days when I go late, they have, for lunch, this nice vegetarian rice dish for 80 odd LKR with some vegetable curries on the side.
Saivara kades have two words associated with them: dingy, dirty and claustrophobic (ok, three!). But New Letchumi Bhawan is wide open and airy and is as clean as any place I've seen. They've even recently upgraded the tables and chairs to the kind you get at the Arpico food court.
New Letchumi Bhawan is the only place on Flower Road where you can walk in with a hundred rupee note and get something good. If I may get Marxist for a bit, it is a little oasis of proletarianism in the bourgeois desert that is Colombo 7. Visiting it just to keep some sanity on a road where they sell a cheese roti for LKR 300 is worth it.
PS: If you've got any good suggestions for similar, less well known places like the Yapane Bath Kade, please let me know in the comments