Chapter One is a new entry to Battaramulla's promising dining scene. With a good location and quite a beautiful physical set-up, we expected good food at a high price. Surprisingly, affordability is the main plus point, but not necessarily flavour. They claim to serve fusion food, but once you get past the roundabout wordings of the menu and down to the food on the plate, it's pretty mediocre fare. We dropped in on a sunny Saturday afternoon for lunch.
One thing you can't fault Chapter One for is their presentation. Even if the food does lack flavour, the plating certainly doesn't lack taste. Aided by the minimal plates, the soft ashen colours of the placemats and table, the food really does pop. While waiting for our food, we found ourselves gawking at the dishes brought out to the other diners.
Burgers are served open-faced, so even the drizzle of mayonnaise looks artsy.
So, we decided to order the signature club sandwich, juicy beef burger, and a sweet symphony trio for dessert.
Why a club sandwich (Rs. 475), one of the most generic options you could think of, would be a chef's signature dish is beyond me. There was egg, smoked chicken, chicken ham, tomatoes, cheese and onions. The brown and white mix and match looks cute, though dietary preferences are usually one way or the other. For the price, this was alright.
The Salmon Duo (Rs. 470) was beautifully presented, but had a few flaws.
The sauce on the smoked salmon seemed a little too sweet, and wasn't to my taste. The fish itself didn't taste super fresh. I found it to be pasty.
The terrine, however, was very bright, sharp and acidic, and just looked beautiful on the plate. That little dollop of sauce was unnecessary, though. It was far too strong to complement the terrine and instead overpowered it. I'd order this again for the terrine alone.
I was quite disappointed with the Juicy Beef Burger (Rs. 375), mostly because it wasn't juicy at all. Though the patty had some spice going on, it had gotten quite dry. I suspect this was due to a frozen patty. The bun was what you'd find at a grocery store. There's definitely more meat here than the price would get you at Burger King, but it won't win on taste.
Kinita went a different route with her order and had some Fusion Modha (Rs. 900). While everything looked pretty on the plate, it was pretty bland. It was essentially just two dry, unseasoned slabs of fried fish with a side of limp, salty vegetables. It was too underwhelming to ingest.
The crab (Rs. 1,100) looked promising, quite fiery in its presentation, but lead to disappointment as there was only so little flesh inside, despite the size. Also, the lovely crispy sweet chillie batter was just on the outside, so once you managed to actually open the shell, there was no flavouring inside. It didn't help that they didn't have the usual crab utensils. We were again, very disappointed. It was a tedious dish with no satisfactory end result.
We ordered the Sweet Symphony Trio (Rs. 490). What was described as a "coconut custard with jaggery and cashew nuts" turned out to be watalappan (n.b. watalappan is a flan, not a custard). It was rather dense and not so good. You could taste the cardamom a little too strong, and the texture seemed as though it had just been sitting around for a while.
The cheesecake was clumpy and dense, and just not very good.
Last, and perhaps least, the pannacotta was a gelatinous, rubbery disappointment. As bland as they come, there wasn't much to enjoy in this apart from its looks. The blueberry compote didn't help much and we didn't take more than a bite.
Ambiance & Service
We like that you can choose to dine outside, though the indoors has a great ambiance with its exposed brick wall and soft, ashen colours. They don't play music too loud, and it's mostly instrumentals of songs you know, so that's nice. It's actually a really beautiful place.
The waiter that saw to us seemed a little untrained, struggling to figure out how to set the dishes down onto our table. He seemed to disappear between the upstairs and downstairs dining areas, too. They also seemed to have not noticed Kinita at all, as she had to wait 10 minutes for the staff to acknowledge her presence and get her a menu.
We like that Chapter One seems to focus on great presentation and affordability, but we wish they would work towards more impressive flavours. We're also not sure what they're going on about when they say they are a fusion restaurant, because most of the dishes were fairly straight-forward and not particularly inventive. If all you expect from a meal is to eat with your eyes and post it on Instagram, you won't be disappointed.