No 258, Messenger Street, Colombo 12
Closed right now
Shri Vani Vilas is pretty much an iconic landmark situated in Lafeer Mawatha, Messenger Street. Aside from holding the title of Dosa King, they also have a stellar menu that's chock full of delicious South Indian food fare.
Hulftsdorf is known for its booming enterprises, surplus of tile shops, paint shops, dealers in home fixtures and whatnot. Despite the sweltering heat and dust, it continues to thrive. It certainly isn't a top pick for a fun day out.
But what's an effective method of keeping all them blue/white collar workers at peace despite the many mind-bending daily tasks they have to endure? Food, of course. Good food.
Shri Vani Vilas is pretty much an iconic eatery that's stood the test of time and still holds the title of 'Dosa King'. We found ourselves at Hulftsdorf on a busy evening and decided to pop in for a quick bite.
They have a large menu, with enough and more options to go around. I could have used this as an excuse to order a bunch of extravagant dishes like their sizzling Tandoori, but unfortunately, our timing was bad.
Most restaurants that serve Indian food, have this strange thing where on some occasions- you can only place orders from the Chinese menu. This perplexes me to no end and I'll never understand it, especially because it's only a select few items off the Indian food section that you can order. Why must life be this complicated?
For starters, I got a Vada. Vada is a fried, donut-like snack that contains chickpea flour, chili, onions, and other items of preference. Each piece here goes for Rs. 60, and it's basically the best vada you'll have.
It's crispy at first bite, and then soft and pillowy within. Pair it with the complimentary chutney provided on the side and you're all set.
This alternative didn't displease. You get a large amount of paneer cubes tossed and stir-fried in sauce, lots and lots of chilli and garnished with some spring onion leaves. It's a chunky treat, with enough to go around and adequate spice to help you weep with joy.
The Mushroom 65 (Rs. 550) is also a massive serving. The dish is heaped with batter-fried button mushrooms. They retain their juiciness and deliver a nice little squish after that initial crunch from the batter.
The batter itself contains all the seasoning, mostly curry powder, chili powder and possibly a bit of turmeric and lime. This is a good dish for when you need an accompaniment to rice or whatever, but can't be bothered to go through the process of making a decision fast.
For main #1 we got a portion of the Vegetable Fried Rice (Rs. 340). While the portion looks deceivingly small, it's actually more than enough for two.
The dish consists of well-cooked basmati rice with red, yellow, and green peppers scattered throughout. In addition to the usual spring onion leaves, you also get some diced tomato action going on. It's filling, seasoned well and perhaps not the best option at Vani Vilas- but a good choice nevertheless.
Main #2 - my favourite - was the Lucknowi Dum Biriyani. Served in a large aluminum pot, was a hefty pile of perfectly seasoned yellow rice that exuded hints of cardamom, cumin, and saffron (debatable).
Embedded within the rice was an ample amjount of curried green beans, shredded carrots and onions along with loads of spring onion leaves.
It's incredibly rich despite only containing vegetables and nothing else. Plus for just Rs. 360- this one's a steal.
The Salty Lassi (Rs. 225) is a big milkshake glass full of liquidised curd and nothing else. It's a good option for when you want to wash down the guilt of engaging in such a large meal, and helping thy belly where digestion is concerned.
The service here is quick and efficient, but towards the end, they billed us for more than what we ordered. Slip-ups happen I suppose, but check your bill either way.
Hulftsdorf is wayyyy out of anyone's way just to visit for lunch or dinner. But make an exception to try Vani Vilas at least once- it won't ever disappoint.
Shri Vani Vilas still holds the title of Dosa King. Aside from their undisputed dosas, they also serve a whole range of excellent, truly South Indian meals.
Vani Vilas deserves its street cred for being one of the best saivars in the city.
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