Written by Zuhdeeya Ghouse • Written 3 months ago
Note: Prices and more reviews of other menu items will be released in the official review.
The 22nd of September 2017 saw the doors of Almonds Exclusive officially open and EAT was there for the scoop!
Almonds Exclusive is a fine dining restaurant centrally located on Galle road, in Colombo 3. Despite its location though, you tend to not notice the chaos outside (the opening started at 4pm and the diners were oblivious to the eventual after-work rush outside). They also boast an extensive coffee menu because of their state of the art Rancilio coffee machine (we were more than enthusiastic about this)
Hisham Halali, the CEO of Almonds Exclusive, commenced proceedings by talking about the history of coffee (originally known as ‘Qahwah’ - which is also what their coffee shop is called), the Nikola Tesla deck (‘Nikola Tesla’ because they wanted to highlight the infamous inventor who is known for having not patented a lot of his work, and was thus not credited for numerous breakthroughs in technology) - a space for business meetings/lunches etc. - this space can be booked in advance for such matters.
We were introduced to the many chefs and staff that make the dining experience at Almonds Exclusive possible.
This was followed by a short speech by the Chief Guest of the evening - Mr. Ravi Karunanayake, who spoke of how honoured he was to have been a part of the opening, and wished the establishment all the best with their endeavours.
Menu cards that were specially printed for the opening were a part of each place setting and the few choice dishes on offer catered to everyone - from the most passionate carnivore, to the most ardent vegetarian - a smart move on their part. Now, on to the food!
Assorted Bread Basket
This included about 3-4 types of buns, ranging from your basic bread roll, to its multi-grain sibling and some wedges of ciabatta bread, along with 3 small packages of anchor butter (you know the kind). There was easily enough bread to feed the 4-6 people the table could accommodate. The bread tasted as bread should - the outer crust had a delicious, toasted crunch to it and the main body exclaimed ’freshly baked’.
Let me begin by saying that I am not a voluntary salad eater - I do not see the point of it when there is meat on the menu. That being said, the portion of salad brought to the table was quite large and looked quite appetizing. We felt there needed to be more dressing and it needed to be more evenly distributed about the salad. Most of all though, we wish the olives had been pitted.
Seer Fish Fillet
The fish arrived covered in a thick sauce, and shared the plate with a few heads of broccoli and boiled potatoes. The fish was cooked well - it was flaky, but didn’t totally fall apart on the way to your mouth. Taste-wise, what is most memorable and loved is the inherent tangy after taste that is apparent in this dish. The potatoes and broccoli don’t seem like they contribute much to the dish, but I suggest you eat the occasional potato or head of broccoli between bites of the fish lest you find the tangy flavour of the fish overwhelming.
That being said, this dish’s con was that the number of bones that were left under the skin of the fish was disappointing - no one, whether you are at a fast food joint let alone a fine dining restaurant, wants to pull bones out of their mouth.
You can sometimes feel cheated at a fine dining restaurant when you pay so much for such a small portion of food, but this is a large portion by anyone’s standard - If I had eaten more from the bread basket, I would not have been able to finish this by myself - and I can eat ALOT. Prices weren’t displayed that day, but it’s going to have to cost a ridiculous amount for this dish to not be worth it.
Pretty please, Almonds Exclusive, do something about the bones though.
We were served a large steak (well done) with mashed potatoes, cherry tomatoes and asparagus stalks. The steak was relatively easy to cut into, but was a bit too chewy to have been perfect. It was drowned in a thick sauce that lifted the piece of meat to another level - you need this sauce with everything you eat, ever. Together with the meat, you were treated to the warm flavours of perfectly seasoned meat, with no distractions - even in this hot country, you still imagine yourself sitting in front of a fire eating this in the dead of winter - that’s the kind of warm feeling you get.
The mashed potatoes were in danger of being overpowered by the beef, but they escaped by a hair - they were creamy, smooth and warm. Once again, it was quite a large portion - the perfect comfort food-sized portion, which is perfect in our books, to be honest.
This was a light drink, meant as a palate cleanser I assume. It works in that regard, though the drink was not cool when we received it - it was room temperature. Not the preferred temperature for what is essentially a fruit juice. This may have been because of the rush of it being the official opening though, so we’re not judging yet.
Affogato with coconut milk
This was the coffee drink we sampled for the opening and as an avid drinker of coffee, I loved it. An affogato is basically a small dollop of vanilla ice cream ‘drowned’ in a shot of espresso. We had a bit of coconut milk with ours, and it was a delight. This was quite sweet, so you may want to think twice before ordering your affogato with honey. If this was a teaser trailer of their coffee menu, you can be sure to catch us back there for the full length film!
This was the most disappointing dish of the event in this writer’s opinion. When the dish arrived at the table I thought the mousse was suspiciously smooth and white for what was supposed to be a cookie mousse, but then quickly realized it was a pile of whipped cream with some berry sauce on top, with half a cookie crumbled at the base.
The date cake on the other hand, was one of the highlights of the day - it was a dome shaped cake served with whipped cream on the side. It was just the right amount of date-y and sticky. Best date cake in a long while. Highly recommended.
We were treated to a large piece of your standard chocolate cake with a cherry on top. The cake was moist, and not too dense. The chocolate flavour did not overwhelm either. This can easily be shared between two people.
Keeping in mind that this was the opening, we knew service would not be at its peak. We were quite well attended to, though our melon drinks took some time to come to the table, and we had to remind two waiters about it before it happened. We ordered four affogatos to the table but only two made it. We got the other two quite soon after we pointed it out to the waiter though.
Despite that, we didn’t feel inconvenienced at any point during our time there - several people attended to us, and the wait staff seemed to be quite in sync with each other. We have no doubt that on any other given day, there would be no issues. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and friendly and knew the dishes well.
PIcture courtesy of Almonds Exclusive
The food was presented on unadorned, white crockery and while the main course dishes looked good, you could not call them ‘pretty’, and there’s nothing wrong with that because these dishes are not delicate - they are robust and commanding, as opposed to the desserts.
The desserts were pretty though, with their compact shapes and artistic flare that is apparent in the presentation.
Interior and Ambience
Should anyone want to find this restaurant, the best thing to do would be to look out for the pendant lighting hanging from the double height ceiling in the front of the restaurant. This is very striking, even from the road, and is one of the defining interior features in the restaurant as well. Timber of different stain levels can be seen throughout - whether it’s the mezzanine level flooring that continues to the ground floor ceiling, timber flooring, the dining chairs on the mezzanine dining level or the tables one would eat at - Timber and shades of brown go hand in hand with the ethos of Almonds Exclusive.
Despite labelling themselves a ‘fine dining’ restaurant, the ambience is a more easy going one - you would be likely to visit with a bunch of friends, especially with the swing chairs on the mezzanine dining level. Night time brings about a more intimate atmosphere though.
It was a lovely night. Almonds Exclusive is a cozy restaurant and foodies gathered and shared in the well planned menu. There may have been a few hiccups here and there, but nothing actually inconvenienced us plus, as mentioned before, it was the opening night - we were not expecting perfection from the wait staff. We eagerly await to go back for the main review once they have been in operation for some time!