I spent a lot of time eating out in 2009. These are a few of the standouts:
Fine Dining - I've always appreciated the Cinnamon hotels because the food there is good but not overpriced. Their Epicurean menu (LKR 1600++, Thursdays) at Tao, Cinnamon Grand, +94 011 2497369 - a 24 item tasting menus - is a good example. There may be a better fine dining value in Sri Lanka but I haven't found it. Forget how cheap it is: the technique on the plate is excellent.
Tiramisu - The best tiramisu is at Reghina Margherita (photo below, on left). The cheapest decent tiramisu is at Taprobane Coffee Shop Cinnamon Grand or Bars Café (photo below, on right).
Pizza - Pizza at Echo Cinnamon Grand is cheaper than Reghina Margherita but still as good. 7 Degrees North at Cinnamon Lakeside, +94 11 2491000 also has a good, cheap pizza.
Donuts - Keells Bakery donuts are better than Gonuts and are 50% off after 7pm
Outdoor Restaurant - Summer Garden (86A, Green Path, Colombo 7, +94 11-4940540, turn into the second gate after the the National Art Gallery) is the cheapest place to have a drink outside. It has an amazing mixed grill with bacon and all (LKR 750, enough for 2) and a pretty damn good chop suey (LKR 400, enough for 2).
Rice & Curry - If you’re on your way to Batticaloa or Polonnaruwa, stop at Woodside Tour Inn in Giritale for an amazing rice (keeri samba) and curry – ask for the lake fish fillet fried in breadcrumb to be added to your meal.
Rice & Curry 2 - If you’re passing Haldemulla on your way to Arugambay, you must stop at Thunmansala for breakfast or lunch or both. The view is amazing. On a clear day, yes, that's the Kiri Vehera.
Rice & Curry 3 - Cheap, clean, tasty food? In Anuradhapura, the only way to get all three adjectives is at Family Super.
Nostalgia - Fountain Café is open again at Keells Union Place. They’ve got some of the old menu, some of the same cooks and even one of the old waiters. Even the Knickerbocker Glory should be back now. Here’s a hint, though - it doesn’t taste the same because we were young then. Nothing tastes as good as it used to: nostalgia is the sweetest sauce.
Street Food - Burgers King (old name Mr Burger King) has expanded and their beef kebab is awesome. Imitation shawarma places are everywhere – there’s an inscrutable Malay guy running one in between Odel and Rahumaniyas.
Street Food (best for last!) - The kadala (chick pea) guy in Katunayake (turn right at the T junction just before the airport security check; he’s usually in front of the row of food joints in the evening) makes his “taste” with tiny dried shrimp. I have eaten food in Sri Lanka aplenty but this is probably the one item of food I enjoyed the most last year.