Fortune Boat.

Fortune Boat was a wonderful find. It’s a Chinese restaurant, hidden just off Independence Square near the newly refurbished Colombo Racecourse. You’d never spot it unless you happened to be walking round there – which is why we’ve called it ‘the forbidden Chinese restaurant’.

It’s isn’t really forbidden. It’s actually a lovely little place, semi-open air and right next to a small lake (or pond); I think it’s meant to look and feel like a boat. It kind of does. You get cute little ducks swimming past and a tree full of storks attending to their toilette. Apparently it’s been around for two years, but we didn’t realise it even existed until a few weeks ago.

The food here is good. Very good. And it’s probably about as authentic as Chinese is going to get in Sri Lanka. They serve a selection of Cantonese, Sichuan and Beijing cuisines: tripe, pork trotter, shark fin soup (we don’t approve of this), pork intestine, abalone (sea snails), kidney and so on… so if you come here looking for hot butter cuttlefish or chicken with cashew nuts and dry red chilli you’ll be disappointed. But don’t be put off either. They do serve more than just scary offal. They have a lovely selection of sizzling beef, pork, lamb and chicken, and also the standards like mapo tofu, kung pao chicken, black bean beef, etc. And you get a really wide selection of lamb dishes – which is rare in Sri Lankan Chinese restaurants, but quite common in China.

Our ordering was a little unadventurous – no tripe or trotter – but we did try to keep away from the generic Sri Lankan meal of fried rice and chilli chicken. Instead we went for sizzling griddle fried lamb with cumin (Rs. 1580), black fungus (a kind of mushroom, Rs. 750) and steamed white rice (Rs. 300).

The flavours were so different from any other Chinese meal we’ve had in the country. For one, everything was quite dry. Neither the veg nor meat was steeped in an oozing melange of garlic and soy, the standard base of most indo-sino dishes. And since we’d ordered the steamed rice, our palates weren’t overwhelmed by the tang of msg. The plain rice brought out the strange notes of cumin in the lamb – strange because I’ve never had this in Chinese before – and the textures of the slippery, crunchy black fungus. We really enjoyed this food. It was, to put it pretty simply, just tasty.

Apparently the Fortune Boat is run by a Chinese couple, and we caught a glimpse of the chef – also Chinese. You can kind of tell when eating here that the food isn’t cooked by Sri Lankans. Which isn’t in any way a criticism of Sri Lankan Chinese or our chefs. Sri Lankan Chinese has it’s own charm entirely, and it’s pretty amazing. This is just different, and it makes for a nice change when you’ve had just a bit too much kan kun, fried rice and hot butter cuttlefish.

In terms of price, individual meat dishes can look quite expensive. For instance our lamb, which was easily finished by two people, cost Rs. 1580. However, the food is good quality and tasty, and if you go for steamed rice (recommended) and don’t order any drinks, you can make this a fairly affordable meal.

So we’d recommend going here. The setting is lovely, the staff go quite out of their way to be amiable and the food is good. It’s a great place to try something different or to surprise a date with a restaurant she (or he) probably hasn’t heard of before.

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