998 on Alexandra Place is yet another new Chinese restaurant to open up in Colombo. Their stuff is quite authentic but we think their hot butter cuttlefish in particular, is pretty great.
We've driven past the 998 building a few times, but we couldn't find any information about the place. It's owned by a company called Yuzhenge Restaurants (sounds legit). We were told that the kitchen is run entirely by Chinese chefs, with the head chef hailing from Beijing. Compared to contemporary Chinese eateries in Colombo, the menu at 998 is pretty limited, but from what we tried, what they offer, they do pretty well. At Rs. 550 - Rs. 1100 for a small portion (enough for 3), they fall somewhere in the upper-mid range when it comes to price.
The chicken fried rice (Rs. 428 for S) isn't the best we've tried but it did have its merits, and it's actually really great value for money since the portion is easily enough for three. We felt the rice could have used a bit more seasoning but that depends on personal preference. What's interesting was that they actually add diced cucumber to the fried rice, which isn't something you normally come across here.
Their hot butter cuttlefish (Rs. 784 for S) was top notch, comparable to some of the best places we've tried. It ticked all the right boxes with a well seasoned, golden crunchy batter and perfectly cooked cuttlefish. With a portion size that's enough for three, we were very impressed.
The kung pao chicken (Rs. 784 for S) was not as spicy as the other iterations we've had but still tasted good. It's more or less a stir fried chicken with onions, chillies and lemongrass, served with a thick sauce. This one was actually pretty sweet with a mild spiciness which worked well with the HBC.
The fried pork belly (Rs. 784 for S), while flavoursome was a tad bit overcooked. This may actually be to the liking of some since it gives a much crunchier texture.
Ambience & Service
This place is actually pretty massive with three stories and seating for around 200 people. The interior is clean, air-conditioned and well lit, with the usual round tables. They've also got a TV that's permanently switched to a Chinese news channel.
The service was very fast with the food coming to the table in less than fifteen minutes. They've got both Chinese and local waiters so communication won't be an issue. The waiters were friendly, well spoken and professional which isn't something many other Chinese eateries can boast.
998 has a lot of competition in Colombo, but they've made quite a good first impression, and with the growing Chinese expat community it's sure to gain popularity with time.
Definitely try the HBC.