Colombo has a ton of Chinese eateries, but Tong Ni BBQ hidden away on Walukarama Road (behind Subway), is one that is truly unique. The food is good and you get to cook it right on your table. It may not suit everyone, but we found it entertaining.
They also give these cool loyalty cards to return diners which entitle them to discounts and offers the next time they dine-in.
We actually first came across Tong Ni BBQ about a month back, when we were fruitlessly searching for parking at Subway. We weren't quite sure if they were open at the time so we gave them some time before we dropped in. Their menu is one of the most extensive we've come across at any Chinese restaurant in Colombo. They've got barbecue options for pretty much every type of meat and fish, as well as unconventional parts like beef heart, pig legs and chicken liver. These range between Rs. 600 - Rs. 1300. Besides their barbecue they've also got the usual favourites like HBC, sizzling dishes and what not. You can expect to pay around Rs. 2500 per head, which we think is fine.
The table set up here is somewhat similar to what we've seen at korean restaurants with a barbecue placed right in the middle of every table. All the dishes come to the table marinated from the kitchen so that it can go straight on the barbecue. This time around we decided to embrace the theme and go try out a bunch of their barbecue meat dishes.
We chose the chicken gizzard (Rs. 600) since it's not an option that's usually available at other places. You can either cook the meat yourself or have one of the waiters do it for you. The catch though is that you need to know the cooking times. We decided to let the waiter handle this one, and it came out pretty well. Well seasoned, with the distinct texture of the chicken gizzard coming through.
The barbecue pork strips (Rs. 900) were very similar to what we got at Han Gook Gwan
. It's pretty much 12 strips of bacon so not much explanation required. Just make sure to keep an eye on it because it can go from perfectly cooked to overcooked in a few minutes.
For seafood we went with the cuttlefish (Rs. 680). With this one we asked the waiters how long it would need to cook and ambitiously cooked it ourselves. Surprisingly enough it turned out pretty well. Once again, the marinate was on point so the flavour was good and at Rs. 680 the portion is enough for 2-3 people.
Their seafood fried rice (Rs. 600) was decent but not one of the best we've had. We were happy with the price to portion ratio and the seasoning, but we would have liked to have seen a bit more seafood in the rice.
For veges we tried their celery with cashews (Rs. 880) which was good on its own but didn't really go well with the rest of the dishes. This was probably a mistake on our part when ordering though.
Ambience and Service
Tong Ni has a good mix of both contemporary and classic Chinese elements, with some tasteful wallpaper adding to the ambience. It's very clean and well managed, but they're still pretty new so we have to see if they keep things up over time. This is also a pretty decent option for a small gathering since they've got VIP rooms upstairs which are private and with tables for larger groups.
The service was also quite fast with the stuff coming to the table in under ten minutes. Cooking on the barbecue also takes around ten minutes but we didn't really mind that at all. The waiter are very friendly, enthusiastic and attentive, but they do tend to hover quite a bit. The place is run by a Chinese family but there are eight local waiters so communication won't be an issue.
Tong Ni BBQ is a great addition to the Chinese eateries in Colombo, and a must try for those who are looking for something different from the status quo. Their theme is unique, the price is okay and most importantly, the food is good.
Make sure you ask the waiter for an apron since oil does tend to splash a bit when the BBQ is on.