Reviewed by Dinul Hettiarachchi | 7 months ago
Hidden behind Dutch Hospital Precinct is a gem of a place for all you lovers of Sri Lankan cuisine. With a simple logo depicting their specialties, i.e., black pepper and crab, it's hard to miss and there are many reasons to hop on board their culinary experience.
Green Avocado and Tiger Prawns with Wasabi Mayo | Rs.630
This dish was definitely all about quality over quantity but no one's complaining because with its sweet creamy taste, you'll be ordering another one! The tiger prawns are cooked to perfection and gently laid on top of a slice of avocado. An ideal bite of this dish would consist of a prawn together with some avocado dabbed into the wasabi mayo; the tanginess of the mayo is perfectly balanced with the flavour of the avocado and it also adds a smooth texture to the bite which will have you feeling fulfilled.
Southern Silver Ray baby 'Handella' | Rs.690
This is a true testament to the beauty of Sri Lankan cuisine on its own with the perfect sauce combinations which complement the flavour and crispiness of the fried fish. The fried batter absorbed the saltiness of the handella and made it a delight to bite into (amongst a myriad of tiny crispy bones). We found that the spicy sauce given on the side worked best as a dip and as a true representation of the spices that the restaurant boasts of!
Hot Garlic and Chili Jumbo Prawn | Rs.700 / 100g
While the meat within the shell was cooked to an acceptable softness, it had me longing for a more moist, tender meat. The prawn is served with a sauce full of spices poured over it that has an intriguing aftertaste of chili.
Black Pepper Crab (Medium) | Rs.4900
While some may opt to use the utensils given to extract the meat from the shells, as someone that grew up near the Negombo lagoon, it's only natural for me dig in with my fingers! Not only is this dish an affordable one when compared with its competitors, it is also a signature dish of the restaurant, combining two very favourable Sri Lankan elements: Black Pepper and Lagoon Crab.
The spicy gravy tops off the dish full of black pepper and the crab is cooked to perfection where the meat easily slides off the shell. The flavour really kicks in with every bite and every time you suck on the juicy goodness hidden within the crab claws: a flavour of spice and excitement with a creamy, thick black pepper gravy.
Grilled Black Pepper Yellow Fin Tuna Steak | Rs.1460
This dish is an experience on its own from the moment you pour the creamy white sauce on the steak. Cutting through the soft layers of the tuna steak slices, the sauce gently descends and softens the tuna. While there's a slight zest added by the sauce, the tuna is charred well on the outer layer making it a thin, crispy one.
Prawn Black Pepper Kernel Fried Rice | Rs.780
In a town where many places serve basic fried rice, Black Pepper stands out with a bowl of well-cooked rice tossed in succulent chunks of prawns. It is not too greasy nor is it too dry, just a good dish of fried rice that complements all its side dishes.
Kankun Garlic | Rs.380
Achieving kankun leaves that are soft and cooked to get rid of that bitterness is what we define as mastering the cooking of kankun (quite a tongue twister there). All in all, the kankun offered had the right level of soya sauce along with the sweet tanginess of the garlic. We would definitely go back for more!
Wood Fire Oven Roast Bread | Rs.320 & Grandma's Coconut Sambol | Rs.290
The perfect duo cooked in every Sri Lankan home is present even at this restaurant. The roast bread was pricey given that it was quite similar to ordinary bread, and in fact needed to have a crispier, darker crust to qualify as typical Lankan 'roast paan'! The sambol, on the other hand, was quite satisfactory and we would have loved it if only it had been spicier.
Iced Tea (Peach, Lemon) | Rs.270
The best way to prepare for a spicy crab feast (or to unwind after one) is by indulging in their iced tea full of rich Ceylon tea with the subtle zest of lemon or the sweetness of peach. The rich taste of black tea quite evidently stands out and together with the aroma and the coldness of the drink, it creates an unparalleled taste sensation (especially if it's after having their spicy crab dishes)!
Woodapple Mousse with Wild Berry Compote | Rs.420
Where all the other dishes stood out for their exemplary presentation, this dish failed to impress. While the mousse definitely had that sweet flavour of woodapple, it's texture was not mousse-worthy. That being said, we definitely enjoyed the wild berry compote (and wish we had more)! The compote was sweet and gave us that light sugar rush that everyone loves!
Watalappan and Kolikuttu Banana | Rs.580
Who knew that king coconuts even served the purpose of being used as dessert holders? Anyone checking out Black Pepper needs to end their meal with this dessert which not only boasts a sweet, soft watalappan that screams 'jaggery!', but also because of the intriguing combination of that and bananas!
Interior and Ambiance
From plush chairs to royal tables, this restaurant is all about lavish dining with an edge of sophistication. Furthermore, they offer a lovely wall painting of typical Sri Lankan pepper cultivation drawn by a local artist which truly helps us value this tiny ball of a spice that adds flavour to the majority of our daily dishes.
With soft kite music playing in the background, this restaurant provides the ideal setting for a business meeting or lunch without having to stress your voice. Dine at night near their show kitchen and you'll be in for a plethora of surprises ranging from spurting fire to the beautiful addition of spices (while also staring at their creatively installed wine and spices artwork of a partition).
The staff were friendly, however they seemed to always require the expertise of a manager to explain what went in the dishes. It would also be nice if the staff were trained to remove the meat from shelled seafood especially for those who may not want to get their hands dirty or don't know the art of de-shelling. The food took a while to be brought but we can't complain for it takes time to make the kind of culinary masterpieces this place offers!
And what's more is they offer valet parking as well which is ideal, especially in the heart of Colombo where parking spaces are scarce.
'Minimalistic and vibrant' is the key to their presentation. They do this while also staying authentic to their Sri Lankan roots, whether serving dessert in a king coconut shell or serving roast bread on a wooden board. While some dishes are presented in ways that are on the verge of tacky, this restaurant has the potential to be more creative with its food presentation - especially if it is to live up to the lavish standards set by the interiors.
Who isn't glad when two celebrities of Sri Lanka - Black Pepper and Crab, merge to give us an unparalleled culinary experience? You may find the restaurant in Colombo but the food journey will take you to the four corners of the island with their locally inspired dishes. Whether it's a business dinner or a casual lunch, Black Pepper has you covered with its plush interiors and mesmerizing creativity.