Indian Chaat Corner is a tiny barely-noticeable restaurant that specializes in Indian street food. The chaat is still pretty good, and they've got a nicer interior now.
As far as Indian chaat or street food goes, Colombo doesn't really have anything besides the Chaat Corner that hits the mark. They've got a very wide menu, puris, bhajis, samosas (north Indian style), biriyani - and also a longass range of paneers, curries and sweets that only people who've lived in India will be familiar with. So we're glad there's this one place that seems to specialize in the stuff, if you're the type who happens to miss India's roadside vendors.
In terms of quality, these folks are pretty legit - the recipes, like the small family that owns the restaurant, hail from Gujarat itself. It's basically like snacking at an Indian roadside, except this place has A/C and it's definitely plenty cleaner so you don't have to worry about Delhi Belly.
We got a nice combo of dahi puri, alu paratha, samosa chaat and a glass of mango lassi to wash it all down. Everything we ordered was curiously priced at Rs. 200 each, which is a little much for some things like the paratha dish (just one paratha and three sauces) but a good deal for plates like the dahi puri.
The dahi puri was our favourite. One bite and you get this rush of sweet flavours - yoghurt, tamarind, masala, crunchy murukku type stuff (sev) - savoury and sweet at the same time, a cooling snack on a hot day.
The alu paratha is worth the mention though it cost 200 bucks. The alu, or potato, stuffed inside the paratha was spicy and tasted great with the sides of yoghurt, chutney and extra spicy chilli sauce. If you're a spice freak like me then you'll love trying out some of the things here that try to stay loyal to north Indian chilli-ridden recipes. If you're new to Indian street food, the nice lady in the kitchen will be glad to help you out.
The samosa chaat is an explosion of spices and masalas, there's loads in there, from masalas to chutneys to chunks of savoury biscuit pieces. Definitely not for the uninitiated (people who aren't familiar with Indian street food will either be intrigued or overwhelmed), but especially if you're Indian this is going to take you back home for sure. The lassi wasn't as thick as the ones we're used to in Delhi but it was strongly flavoured.
Update: Since our initial visit to Indian Chaat corner, they've become one of our favourite snack joints and now they've introduced a few new dishes.
The sev puri (Rs. 200) is an absolute explosion of flavours, something I would glady sit down hammer. It has tomatoe, onion, cucumber, pineapple, coriander, potato and one killer tamarind sauce, all of it somehow on one plate with the puri.
The chicken thawa masala (Rs. 400) was the first meat dish we tried from them and it was solid. This is more or less a proprietary recipe by the lady at Indian Chaat corner which is like cross between a tandoori and masala chicken. It's served with potatoes cooked in a thick sauce which tastes very much like a western BBQ sauce, but with a bit of an Indian twist.
The chicken wrap (Rs. 250) is like a chicken burrito, only better since it's wrapped in a paratha. The filling is a mix of diced curry chicken and veges, but the flaky paratha wrap is what really sets this one apart.
The pakoda (Rs. 200) were also tasty, if a bit spicy. For those who haven't tried it before, it's basically a spicy vegetarian cutlet with potatoes, cauliflower and onions (well at least in this case those were the ingredients ). It's served with a spicy tomato, chilli and onion sauce which works well together.
Special mention for their mint and lime juice (Rs. 150) which is the best mint based beverage I've had in a while. I'm usually not a fan of mint based drinks since it can be so overpowering but in this case the balance of mint to lime was just right with the tanginess of the lime cutting through the mint.
Service & Ambience
Like we said before, the Chaat Corner has improved its interior - there's rows of proper seats and the A/C is a relief from the hot sun outside. It still isn't the best place to eat though, the table is a little too high when you sit down, so you're better off doing take-away. The kitchen is in the next room and there's a sliding window which the owners peep through and ask you what you'd like and what not. Service is fast and hot-hot, and you'll have to get the stuff from the window yourself and return the plates the same way.
The Indian Chaat Corner gets points for its long menu of choices, and its recipes that stick to original Indian ones probably more than any other place in Colombo. We don't know of other local spots that can give you gol gappa and manchoorian that so closely resemble the likes in India, so if you want authentic Indian street food here, this is as good as it gets.
While Sri Lanka has successfully tried its hand at many a cuisine, chaats are somehow not our forte. For the homesick Indian, there are few places to which you can dart for a bit of home cooked cheer in the form of a bhel puri.
The Indian Chaat Corner is possibly the only establishment in Colombo dedicated to serving chaat - a barely there little joint on Haig Road, it serves a complete spectrum of the crunchy roadside canapé: paani puri, dahi puri, sev puri, etc. For those unfamiliar with the cuisine, chaat is a term used to denote the savoury bite sized dishes served from carts on Indian roadsides. These tend to consist of crunchy biscuity bases flavoured with coriander, onions, tamarind and masala, often sprinkled with sev (tiny crispy yellow noodle like things) and ladled with yoghurt or a watery tamarind mixture. Most of the different names indicate something of a variation on these ingredients.
Consisting of a small, slanting room with plastic chairs, the Indian Chaat Corner seems to resemble the back of someone's kitchen - which I think it essentially is. However, don't be put off by the shoddy interior. While the place looks a little bit bare and unfinished, the food is excellent and so is the service. Run by a charming family - who each take turns to explain the menu and suggest items - the service is so warm that you can't help wanting to go back.
And there's no reason why you wouldn't. The chaats and pakoras here are excellent - the pakoras in particular. Cooked right in front of you, these cutlet-like vegetable balls are encased in a crispy golden batter; they turn up piping hot, lashed with a slightly sweet brown sauce. The crunch of the outer batter sinks into the softness of the cutlety centre. It's slightly different from your usual pakora, but it's delicious. The puris are packed with shooting flavour as well - the tongue passes from the tart notes of tamarind to the smooth sweetness of the yoghurt as the teeth crunch through the puri. This is one of the city's most decent attempts at Indian street food.
If you find the menu confusing (what's the difference between a bhel puri and a sev puri? What's a pav bhaji?), don't worry. The family is incredibly friendly and obliging - and they'll probably explain the items to you before you can even ask.
While the Indian Chaat Corner may be lacking that special oopmh you get from the palm juice of a roadside Indian vendor, this is good, and more importantly clean, food. Have a visit and support a sweet, family run establishment. Also, enjoy some chaat, it's fun to eat.