Urban Kitchen.

Food courts can be depressing – Excel World, Salaka, Crescat, Majestic City. None of these really scream culinary promise. Low ceilinged, dark and housed in the basements of shopping malls, neither MC nor Crescat is really the sort of place you’d want to spend a lingering lunchtime.

Urban Kitchen, however, is one of the city’s newer dining halls. Located right next to Arpico, the lovely, large room serves a variety of cuisines from around the globe. Texmex, Hawker food, risottos, rice – there’s over 200 items on the menu. We’d normally be wary of any place that offered that much variety – how do you have the ingredients to whip either risotto, fuji ramen or peking duck at a moment’s notice? – but Urban Kitchen is quite clean and safe, obviously geared to its high inflow of customers and their varying demands.

But with so many dishes to choose from it can be hard knowing what to pick, so be prepared to spend a good 15 minutes digesting the menu. Do you go for those gleaming ruby strips of tuna sashimi – or that fresh out the woodfire BBQ pizza? What about a creamy carbonara with bread? We finally settled on the salmon maki from the sushi bar (Rs. 600 for eight pieces), the Chinese set menu (Rs. 355) and a woodfire pizza (Rs. 600). The sushi and pizza are good – they don’t cause great excitement, but these are solid meals that don’t disappoint, as was the case with the Chinese. This looked the most appealing – great mounds of pearly, egg-strewn rice and generous strips of chicken doused in chilli sauce – but didn’t taste that great, leaning slightly toward the sweet and sickly side of things.

Urban Kitchen is a really nice place. Big, bright and full of fun seating, this might be the one venue that redeems the state of mass dining in Sri Lanka. Unlike a typical food court, here you get the restaurant experience with all the range of a food court. There’s lots of options available, but you don’t have to walk around with a tray looking at them, choosing and then paying. Waiters take your order at the table and the service is excellent and efficient considering what a large scale multi-tasking operation is involved. This isn’t gourmet food, but it’s a largely reliable, tasty dining option that you’re unlikely to be disappointed with.

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