The Manhattan Fish Market is an excellent Malaysian franchise brought to Sri Lanka with no expense spared. They do high quality seafood with a fair but high price.
Franchising, done right, is not a bad thing. The Manhattan Fish Market is a Malaysian brand (not actually from Manhattan) with branches in Singapore, Thailand, Oman and Indonesia. It's been brought down by Sri Lankan entrepreneurs and opens on the 31st of May, 2013.
We went for a preview meal, at their invitation. We usually review places anonymously and pay our bills like normal customers, but we made an exception for this place. Why? Because they were building so much buzz on social media that it was worth getting the story to you before
it opened. However, take this review as a preview and please comment if your experiences are different. We can say that the management and staff were super nice to us, but what matters is if they're super nice when they don't know who you are.
The MFM is located on the corner of Duplication Road and Deal Place, a corner which now has a high concentration of restaurants (BARS Cafe
, Chesa Swiss
, and a Perera & Sons). They have parking for about 12 cars, about five in front and more on the other side of the street.
This building was the old Dialog Future Centre, which was quite possibly the worst use of space I've ever seen. That pokey, narrow building has been transformed into a huge open space on two floors with cut cement, private dining rooms, outdoor seating, etc. No expense has been spared in the renovation, especially on the kitchen. We had a look behind and it's the most modern setup I've seen outside of America.
They have family style booth seating upstairs, conference type tables in the private rooms (with built in iOS devices and iPhone/iPad connectors if you want to display your stuff or listen to your own music). They have nice wood tables and metal chairs in other sections, including an outdoor patio.
We had a tasting menu with a guy from Singapore downstairs keeping a watchful eye on the staff at all times. Normally you get a different experience on opening night, but this franchise seems to be so highly structured that we think you'll get the same type of food anytime you visit (though perhaps not as fast). And the food is really, really good.
The MFM straddles the line between fine dining and fast food. They use extremely high quality and often imported ingredients, make their own sauces, and customize everything down to the excellent bread. However, the menus and presentation are more along the lines of a TGI Fridays or Chili's (middle class American restaurants). The quality here is way, way better than, say, Dinemore, but it's not as stuffy as sitting someplace like Lagoon.
The food is really really good. I've said that before, but it was. The soups (Rs. 390) are chunky and satisfying (we tasted the mushroom and the clam chowder). The mussels (Rs. 1200) are perfectly done in a nice creamy sauce, reminded me of Canada actually. The best value item is probably the fish and chips (Rs. 890) which comes with two white and flaky hunks of dory fish (imported). This fish is throughout the menu and is worth trying. No fishy taste, it's just delicate and melts in your mouth. The best tasting (for us) was the humble looking baked spicy fish rice (Rs. 1090). This is dory served in tin foil with rice, but it's got a real hit of spice and the fish again melts in your mouth. Not the most attractive looking thing on the menu but definitely worth a try.
Some of their more popular dishes (throughout testing time) have been prawn, but we can say that the king prawn (Rs. 1790) is quite expensive and not that filling. Perhaps a better value is their all inclusive platter (Rs. 3000) which seems like it can serve about three people. The mud pie (Rs. 590) dessert is also oozy and excellent (apparently - it had peanut so only Shru could eat it).
Again, the food was across the board excellent. They obviously take care to get the best ingredients and pay attention to the details down to the quality of fries and bread. There also seem to be extremely tight quality controls and pretty intensive training for the staff.
The prices, however, are not low. You're looking at at least Rs. 3,000 - 5,000 for two if you include non-alcoholic drinks (which are excellent and worth including). Overall we'd say that it's a good value. What you're paying for is largely good ingredients on par with international markets (ie, they buy export quality dory, lobster, etc). You're also paying for a restaurant where no expense seems to have been spared from the kitchen to the tables to the menus. That said, these prices are comparable to an average Sri Lankan Chinese restaurant.
We were invited so the service was obviously excellent, from the management on down. At one point, however, we wanted to change our order and the actual waiter (the one we'd encounter normally) was able to communicate information and make decisions on his own. For the service we'll really have to come back anonymously to tell, however.
What we can say is that they're very responsive and active on social media and that if you have any issues ask for Shafraz.
The Manhattan Fish Market is an excellent restaurant and a welcome addition to Colombo. The food is excellent, the location is very well done (could do with a bit more parking if they want to scale) and the service (to our best knowledge) is well trained and smart. The price is not low, but if you look at everything going into it we think it's a high value.
The Manhattan Fish Market is Sri Lanka's first international quality franchise (that isn't fast food). We say quality in terms of investment as well as taste. Everything is really top notch. We'd say it's a good bite out.
The Spicy Baked Fish Rice or anything involving the Dory fish (imported from Vietnam, not from Finding Nemo) is excellent.