Dharshan Munidasa has a reputation for thinking out-of-the-box and pushing boundaries, both of which he has demonstrated at his restaurants, Nihonbashi and, more recently, the Ministry of Crab.
Not a formally trained chef, Dharshan Munidasa says his love of food began on the other side of the equation: eating. He developed an enthusiasm for cooking whilst studying Computer Engineering and International Studies at the John Hopkins University in the USA. Self-taught, he is now a celebrated chef and restaurateur, responsible for founding two of Sri Lanka's most successful restaurants: Nihonbashi and Ministry of Crab, and is also the host of popular TV series, 'Culinary journeys with Dharshan'.
Nihonbashi and Ministry of Crab are both included on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, making Dharshan only the second chef-owner to have two restaurants on this prestigious list.
Of mixed Japanese and Sri Lankan heritage, Dharshan was in his early twenties when he founded Nihonbashi and he has spent the last 20 years ensuring it has grown into one of the best Japanese restaurants in the country.
The simplicity of Japanese cuisine relies on the quality of the ingredients, of which Dharshan is very conscious. He can often be found visiting the fish market to select the best of the export quality tuna before it's shipped off to Tokyo.
Ministry of Crab, Dharshan's second restaurant venture, which he co-owns with Sri Lankan cricket legends Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, is also known for its focus on ingredients; this time Sri Lankan produce, and in particular its famous lagoon crabs, often held to be the best crabs in the world. At Ministry of Crab, this cherished ingredient could not be fresher and the restaurant employs a daring 'no freezers' policy.
The commitment to showcasing the best of Sri Lankan cuisine means that local dishes sit side-by-side with the renowned Chilli Crab and Baked Crab on the menu at Ministry of Crab. Crab Curry, Clay Pot Prawn Curry and Chicken Curry Rice are all popular choices, but recent stand-out dishes include Pol Sambol - freshly scraped to order coconut flesh with red onion, chillis and lime juice - and Kade bread - both described as the perfect accompaniment to any crab dish.
The other stand-out menu item is the Small Island Iced Tea, which is given a Sri Lankan twist: Arrack (a spirit distilled from the coconut flower), is combined with natural iced tea and Iced Tea Soda, which is Ministry of Crab's very own, all-natural, preservative-free alternative to traditional soft drinks.
The culinary presentation at the Ministry of Crab is said to be unique in Colombo and this is complemented by its location; within the historic Old Dutch Hospital, which, built in 1677 is one of the oldest buildings in Colombo Fort. After years of neglect as a result of the civil war, the Old Dutch Hospital has recently been restored by the Sri Lankan Government and is seen as symbolic of the country's progress. It is a location that is both beautiful and inspiring.
Publishing Editor, Revue internationale de la Chaîne