Flower Song.

Yet another Chinese restaurant, except this one is in Kandy. Which means, in very stark contrast to Colombo where Chinese / Chinese inspired restaurants are super abundant, it’s rather a unique phenomenon. A sit down, air conditioned restaurant, with an extensive menu, independent of any hotel, in the Hill Capital. It’s owned by those old masters of Sri Lankan Chinese, or Sino-Ceylonese cuisine – the Gyis of Flower Drum.

For as long I can remember this modestly sized, second floor dining room has been the pinnacle of Kandy’s dining scene. While the Hill Capital might be the nation’s second city in terms of population, smattering of government departments and overall cultural weight where eating out is concerned it barely makes the island top 10. I’d say Galle is the culinary second city, followed by Negombo. Frankly I’d rather dine in Trincomalee, Nuwareliya or Jaffna than Kandy.

In Kandy would be diners must make the uninspiring choice between various mediocre and over priced hotel menus (Queens, Hotel Suisse, Earls Regency etc.), Devon’s serviceable but unexciting offerings, or one of the numerous, but never-particularly outstanding, little eateries that are scattered throughout the city.

It’s really pretty dire- the city is one of the few places on earth where KFC, or Pizza hut must count among the better dining options. In this sea of uninspiring offerings, Flower Song has always stood out. Decent Chinese food, beer, acceptable prices- its hard to believe you’re in Kandy. It benefits from a super central location – near some of the city’s most substantial modern buildings so you even get a little dash of urban buzz. There’s something almost grittily urban about walking up the flight of stairs to the low-lit upstairs dining room. Though inside it’s cheerfully appointed, if a little faded, with red lanterns, fish tanks, Chinese characters for luck etc. The staff are always super attentive and friendly- in contrast to say the waiters at Colombo’s Flower Drum. And while there’s nothing revolutionary about the food- hot butter cuttle fish, kung pao chicken, chop suey etc. a sit down restaurant, open after 9, with a printed menu is a revolution in Kandy, and the food is tasty enough. I enjoy the classic beef in oyster sauce and sweet sour fish. The chop suey for that retro American-Chinese feel- you’ll never find this in China.

Prices are more or less the same as their Colombo outlets main dishes from Rs 600-1000 (will serve 3 or about Rs 1000 a head) which is expensive by Kandy standards but I suppose worth it given your options are so few.

If you’re passing through or spending some time in the second city and looking for a place to eat that isn’t Devon or the Muslim Hotel- try this.

This post was enabled by the Hutch 3G dongle, uploading from the Kandy-Colombo intercity bus (somewhere near Warakapola)

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