A two kilo behemoth
Ministry Of Crab is damn good. You get a food high, seriously. They take whatever makes traditional Sri Lankan seafood good, distill it, refine it and lather it over the biggest crustaceans I have seen in my life. Damn good, really. Took some friends from China and the place did Sri Lanka proud.
The premise of Min Crab is to serve export quality crabs in Sri Lanka. For years the best Sri Lankan crab was in Singapore. Now those same crabs are available in the Dutch Hospital shopping complex, across from the World Trade Center. What that means, however, is that this restaurant has to compete with Singapore on price, so it’s more pricy than Sri Lankans are often used to. Holding back, our bill for three people was Rs. 8,500, or about Rs. 3,000 per person. That’s still about $25, so not insane, but still 30 times what I usually pay for lunch.
Is It Worth It?
Yeah. Hell yeah. I’m not even a big crab person, but it was very very good. Size in one thing. The prawns were so big I wasn’t even entirely clear on what I was eating. It seemed like a small lobster. That prawn hot-pot costs Rs. 1850 and theoretically serves three people, though we were basically licking the bowl. The flavors used at Min Crab have that involuntary awesome you get outstation, where you get an amazing prawn curry at a guesthouse or random kade. They take that traditional cooking and distill it down to its essence, so you get the taste without overwhelming spiciness (unless you ask for it).
It’s perhaps the closest Sri Lanka has got to high cuisine. Sri Lanka has amazing traditional cooking and mediocre restaurants trying to be something western. No one’s taken the charm of traditional food and modernized or experimented with it, until now. Perhaps that Jaffna place that shut down in Nawala. I dunno. The stuff makes you feel high and yet grounded, that’s high cuisine to me.
Where Be The Trimmings?
I read an early review that mentioned the price and the relative simplicity of the fare. Our bill didn’t include wine or dessert or anything extra. Just a medium crab (Rs. 3,200), prawn hot pot (Rs. 1,850), small rice (Rs. 380), and kankun (Rs. 380).
I would venture that the simplicity extends beyond the fare. The seating is at long bench tables, so you’re seated with other people, like a barracks. I mean, a very posh barracks. The kitchen is completely open so you see exactly what’s going on. The waiters are quite nice but not insanely attentive. As far as I can tell there are no specials.
So Why Is This Good?
I’ll admit that when I first sat down I thought we’d get a private table, and I was a bit scared by the price. The minute you bite into something, however, you forget where you are, what you’re sitting on and just eat. They give you a fork and knife but that’s gone in about 15 seconds and you’re just digging into the meal with your fingers and hands. Eating crab and this type of prawn is a bit aggressive, to say the least. The shell is edible, sorta, but you really have to bite and clomp and pull to get the meat out. You have to work for it, it’s kinda like killing the animal again. Thank you for your lives btw, crab and prawn.
The idea of holding a wine glass in this state is laughable and the thought of dessert is quite far away. It’s all about the food on your plate, and in that moment everything about the restaurant locks into place. It’s all about the food.