Cafe Japan is a small home restaurant off Marine Drive in Colpetty that does some pretty great Japanese cuisine. It's the definition of a hidden gem since the place is ridiculously hard to find. They've been around since 2000, but those who know about the place seem to want to keep it to themselves.
This isn't a mainstream restaurant so the menu is small, but they do have all the essentials. Cafe Japan is probably the best place to experience Japanese home cooking in Colombo. It's also not too hard on the wallet with the prices ranging between Rs. 1000 - Rs. 2000 for most dishes. This was one of the first times that we've gotten portions with so many elements that we had a hard time getting it in a single photo, and the best part is that pretty much all of it tasted great. We've tried out their bento boxes in the past, which happens to be a great deal for Rs. 1600 since it comes with rice, miso soup, salad and two different meats/fish of your choice.
This time around we tried out the katsudon with soba noodles and prawn (Rs. 2000), which has two main components, both quite large and filling. The katsudon is a bowl of rice topped with either deep fried pork/chicken cutlets and egg, while the soba noodles come in a large bowl with a light broth, nori (seaweed) and prawns. The katsudon was the highlight of the dish with the pork cutlet being seasoned perfectly and cooked to the point where it just melts in your mouth. The soba noodle broth also tasted great and helped enhance the flavour of the prawns.
No visit to a Japanese restaurant is complete without trying out their sushi, so we also ordered the assorted nigiri (Rs. 2000). At most other places you'd just get the platter of sushi, here we got the 10 piece sushi, salad, miso soup and tonkatsu (breaded fried pork). The sushi had just the right wasabi hit to it and the fish used was very fresh. The only problem we came across was that some of the sushi broke apart if we held it a little too tightly. The tonkatsu was slightly different from the pork cutlet in the katsudon because it comes with a mustard and dipping sauce which adds more flavour on the palate.
For dessert we had some daifukumochi which is a Japanese rice cake with red bean paste filling. We were plenty full from what we'd already eaten but we're glad we gave it a shot. It's not extremely sweet but the smooth and silky texture of the rice cake makes it a real joy to eat.
Ambience and Service
Before we get to the interior, we have to mention that finding this place can be tedious. There's pretty much no sign outside the restaurant. So look for an open garage and small sign right outside the door. This is more or less a house that's been converted to a restaurant. While the location makes it pretty difficult to find, it also makes for a great place to have a meal in privacy.
There was a local waiter on our previous visit (which was on a weekday), but that was a while back. This time around it was the owner who was waiting on the tables. She was all smiles, very courteous and took the time to make some suggestions when we asked her. All in all a very pleasant experience.
Also make sure to check their website before you drop in since they put out a monthly schedule as to which days they'll be closed.
Not many people know of Cafe Japan, but those who do, know that the it's some of the best Japanese home cooking you can experience in Colombo. The portions are large, the service is good and it's a great place for a private meal. It's easily worth the effort of finding the place.
It's always safer to call before dropping in. If the phone rings and no one answers, they're probably closed.