Chinatry.

Chinatry is a new Sichuan centered Chinese restaurant on Flower Road. The food is creative, flavorful and refreshingly different from the other Chinese food in town. Pricey though.

Chinese restaurants in Colombo are usually either Sri Lankan Chinese or what we at YAMU call mainland Chinese. That latter category, however, hides a lot of diversity. Sichuan is one of the more interesting types of cuisine in China, with its signature spicy popping peppers, and it’s something Colombo doesn’t get much of. That’s not all that Chinatry does, but it’s worth checking out for that specialization alone.

The Food

Sri Lankans love hot buttered cuttlefish, but it’s not really a Chinese dish. They make it anyways. This is much more expensive than other varieties in town (Rs. 1680) but it’s quite good. Rather than swamping a meagre amount of cuttlefish in capsicum, this is the best cut of the fish well seasoned and flavorful. You actually get well more cuttlefish than batter, which is rare.

The garoupa Sichuan style isn’t really on the menu but you can ask for it. Rs. 328 per 100g, which worked out to about Rs. 2,200 on the fish here. The sauce is delicious and tingly spicy and the fish was perfectly cooked.

Another novel dish we had was these chicken finger sort of things (Rs. 1,680). This is chicken breast, lightly breaded and served with chili and dipping sauce. Since they’re shaped as rectangles it feels a bit strange but is really quite good. Not heavily flavored but perfectly done, like a post-modern chicken nugget.

The beans (Rs. 680) is the cheapest thing we had but it was quite tasty. Cooked lightly enough that the beans were still juicy and packing lots of flavor.

Also tried the belly pork (Rs. 1280) which was pretty good. It’s actually twice cooked pork (which renders a lot of the fat off), but I wouldn’t have minded a bit more fat. And of course the seafood rice (Rs. 880). That was packed with seafood pieces. Note that they use a wider grain rice, good for chopsticks, but not what a lot of Sri Lankans are used to.

Finally the prawn (Rs. 2,280). Again, not cheap, but this is top quality seafood. These prawns were nearly fist size and delicious.

Overall I was quite happy with the food. I didn’t feel heavy or gross after the meal (also didn’t gorge) but I could remember each dish and each one had a unique flavor profile. The dishes are definitely expensive, but you seem to get what you pay for. From the cuttlefish to the fish to the prawn, they’re starting with the best produce you can get and adding some great sauces to it. 

I also found the food here a lot more creative than the usual rice and three sides Sri Lankans usually get, but also not as terrifying as some of the other mainland Chinese places. The Sichuan flavors I also love more than anything else in China. It’s spicy, flavorful and not entirely foreign.

Location/Ambience

The main scene these days is private rooms, of which Chinatry has a few. They’re well appointed and quite private.

There’s also a big common dining area upstairs.

The place doesn’t look that crazy from the street but it’s well decked out inside.

Service

This place literally just opened so you need to give it some time. We had a good experience but let us know how the experience goes for you. You have the usual scene with a Chinese kitchen and mostly Sri Lankan waitstaff. Stuff can get lost in translation but we didn’t have any problems. They did refill the tea quite promptly, which I appreciate.

One thing that gets lost in authentic Chinese restaurants is someone to explain what’s going on. Most Sri Lankans eat Chinese food like rice and three curries, which you can do, but it’s not how Chinese people actually eat. For this type of cuisine you start with a cold dish, then meats, then fish, then rice, then soup. You don’t have to eat that way, but it is interesting. We would recommend trying something a bit different from sizzling beef or hot buttered cuttlefish, this place has the range.

Conclusion

Chinatry is an interesting new Sichuan style Chinese restaurant on Flower Road. It’s a bit pricey, but you get tasty, authentic food that isn’t terrifyingly weird. It’s actually a very different and tasty experience if you explore the menu a bit.

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