Ministry of Crab is a high-end restaurant on Dutch Hospital premises that specializes in crab cuisine - the food is just plain mouth-watering and the service is good.
The menu is a little convoluted - at the top are the different preparations of crab, in the middle is the range of crab sizes available (1/2 kg to 2 kg+), then there's a few sample guides to show you how to serve for four, and at the bottom other dishes like chicken, prawn and rice.
We ordered two medium crabs (800g - Rs. 4240 each) - in two different preparations, chilli crab and curry crab. The chilli crab was prepared with Sri Lankan spices and had a hint of sweetness in it, and the curry crab was more about the thick gravy that came with it (went great with kade paan). The meat of the curry crab was slightly heavier and tougher making for a heftier meal, while the chilli crab meat was sweet and soft. The picture above shows a hefty portion of the chilli crab dish and the fork beside it should give you an idea of the quantity of the serving -- pretty sufficient for one person.
The crab meat was succulent and the spicy sweet gravy of the chilli crab dish, especially, was flawless (this one is a must-try). 9/10 for quality in this department.
Now that we had two medium crabs to finish, we needed sides to finish it with - so we got two sides of prawn rice (Rs. 980 each) and kade paan (Rs. 200). The portion of the prawn rice was small - about half an ordinary dinner plate, which was tragic, but for what it lacked in quantity it made up for in quality. It was basically just soft small prawns tossed in rice and boiled veggies. We were pleasantly surprised by how amazing it tasted, in fact, we enjoyed it a little more than even the crab. Honestly selling two thick slices of kade paan for Rs. 200 seemed a bit gimmicky, but then again, you can't expect anything cheaper at a high-end diner - it made a great side with the curry crab gravy.
The famed MOC iced tea soda was good (Rs. 480) and made a soothing drink between meals. We thought it unnecessary for them to have charged Rs. 140 just to drink water though. The chocolate biscuit pudding (Rs. 480) - with dark Belgian chocolate in it - came highly recommended, so you might be tempted to try it; it was alright, very chocolatey, you couldn't sense the crisp of the biscuits though, and it didn't quite hit the mark.
Eating crabs is hard work
This section will seem silly to regular crab eaters. But we're gonna write it anyway - for the uninitiated. The crab shells are extremely hard, some of its surface obviously has claws and protective pointy parts, so cracking these open to get to the meat is work. Our waiter advised us how to go about it - hold it like this, pull it like that, try not to poke your eye out, etc. Some parts just came off easily, but other parts you had to work on it with the crab cracker. It's easier if you're heavier built and can apply a lot of physical strength but otherwise you need to really get into it, and either way, you feel like taking a shower afterwards because of the messy eating. Don't take your first date out to eat crabs, watching each other crack open crabs can get disgusting.
Ambiance & Service
Ministry of Crab goes by reservations. You need to call them in advance, maybe a couple of days ahead, to get a seating - we assume the earlier calls get to sit inside, where there's warm low lighting, posters of Dharshan, Mahela and Sanga on the wall, and a view to the open kitchen. The outside area is cool too, and actually feels less crowded, it opens out to the Dutch Hospital courtyard. Reservations are tight - we arrived at 6 and were expected to be done by 8.15 so that a second seating could replace us.
The waiters are very friendly and helpful - they even come tie huge KEEP CALM AND CRAB ON bibs around your neck for you before you start your meal. One of them brought out a gigantic live crab for a few customers to see and take pictures of (this was a tad macabre since the poor guy was going to get boiled and eaten by the same customers).
We spotted Malinga and Sangakkara on the day of our review (though we didn't want to gross them out by waving our crabby hands at them) - if you're lucky you might catch a glimpse of local celebrity frequenting the MOC too.
Ministry of Crab is top-notch quality - it's likely that you won't find that same level of tasty seafood anywhere else in Colombo. Having said that, it's also extremely expensive - our taxes alone grew up to almost Rs. 3000, and altogether it was a whopping 15K for two. For those who can afford pricey dining, definitely go for it - for others, perhaps be wiser with your choices when you order; either way, the food you experience here will not be easily forgotten.
Go for the chilli crab.