Colombo is severely short of Chaat — those savoury Indian snacks filled with explosive (vegetarian) flavours. We only had the rather eccentric Indian Chaat Corner, and now, we have this: The Chaat Kade. With superb service and great food, we've only (mostly) nice things to say about our experience here.
Ambience and Service
It's not hard to find the place; go right down to the end of Duplication Road and then follow Google Maps (or your sense of general geography if you know the area) to W.A Silva Mawatha. The shop is a tiny place where three's a crowd, but they've placed a few stools outside so you can just sit there if you're claustrophobic.
It's best for either just standing and eating right there, or to take away: the food arrives fast, service is efficient, and the men behind the counter are friendly and helpful despite the influx of continuous customers and orders they churn out.
Food and Drink
Despite being called chaat kade, they've got more than just vegetarian chaats going on: scroll quickly through the brief menu which advertises parotas, street delicacies, desserts, and drinks. Given the affordability of the whole thing, I freely ordered across the whole menu with no regrets.
We got everything for take-away after work and then headed over to Marine Drive to eat in peace, so please excuse the terrible lighting in the photos.
The Dahi Puri comes on a bed of watery tamarind sauce/ dip and topped Sev, and the waitstaff mentioned that it's best eaten fresh because it gets soggy otherwise — so we had those as soon as it was ready. Looks a mess, but absolutely delicious: the curd on top adds an added tang while also balancing out the stronger chutney mixed in it.
Similar to the Dahi Puri is the Pani Puri – it's basically the same structure minus the curd, and with light and tangy tamarind sauce coming in a tub instead. The Pani Puri was Rs. 180 and the Dahi was Rs. 200; and you get five 'pieces' per portion.
Our Bhel Puri (Rs. 200) is a messy mixture of rice puffs, masalas, and potato. It's the stuff you get in the other two sans the crispy shell — so you just spoon this up if you don't want to get your hands dirty.
My personal favourite was from the parota section: the Kerala Chicken Curry. Red and smoky, this packed a lot of flavoured heat. My brother was sniffling as he ploughed through it but it was perfect: it's like a superbly marinated and charred chicken curry, and amazing for Rs. 150.
A black, dry beef stir is what the Beef Chukka is — another Keralite dish, this one at Rs. 200. First marinated and then stir-fried with mustard, ginger, curry leaves and an assortment of regular South Asian spices, this was almost as good as the Kerala Chicken. There was a touch of creaminess thanks to the coconut mixed in.
The only kheema (minced meat) dish we got was the Kheema Pav — thick minced meat curry placed on chunks of bread. At Rs. 240, you get a pretty hefty portion weighed down with flavoursome mince and gravy, but our one complaint is that this makes the bread quite incredibly soggy. Wouldn't recommend it for take away or for keeping it too long, it's probably best eaten ASAP.
(Ed Note: We apologize for this Blair Witch Project-like photo)
Continuing our binge-eating spree (okay, to be honest it's street food and disappears quickly and easily), I got a piece of fried Buttermilk Chicken Drumstick (Rs. 150). It looks rather lonely and sad when you get just one, and also a tad dry to boot, but it isn't at all. It's surprisingly flavoursome and has a lovely lemony tang to it.
Let me quickly skim through the tea and dessert, because this quite long already. The Masala Chai (Rs. 50 a tumbler), was freshly brewed and aromatic, but it was more of a hot ginger tea than anything else, as the cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon flavours didn't really come through.
Dessert consisted of little tubs of Rasmalai (Rs. 120). It's quite liquidy and can be drunk. It's sweetened milk, and I couldn't really make out the components properly in the dark, barring semolina and almonds. It was nearly identical in taste to 'baadam paal' — almond milk.
Is this worth your time? Yes. The money? Definitely yes. There's nothing we'd nitpick here (except perhaps the tea and the soggy bread, but the latter is probably our fault for having kept it waiting until we were done taking badly-lit photos).