Friends and fellow foodies, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Dharshan Munidase decided to create Ministry of Crab as a celebration of Sri Lanka’s seafood, particularly of her wonderfully sweet and succulent crabs.
Ministry of Crab is the first restaurant in Sri Lanka dedicated to serving export quality Sri Lankan crabs, as well as the island’s best seafood, locally. Co-owned by Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Dharshan Munidasa the restaurant is housed inside the newly opened 400 year old Dutch Hospital, in Colombo Fort.
The best of Sri Lanka’s crabs have for decades been more easily available internationally than here in Sri Lanka itself. It was a common interest in rectifying this situation, among other things, which brought Dharshan, Mahela and Kumar together to form Ministry of Crab. For Dharshan Munidasa, owner of the acclaimed Japanese restaurant Nihonbashi,using the best of Sri Lanka’s produce is nothing new. 14 years ago he began intercepting the best of Sri Lanka’s tuna before it was sold abroad, and now he’s set to retain the best of Sri Lanka’s crabs. The difference between export crabs and those usually found in Sri Lanka is vast, Dharshan explains. Not only do export crabs grow to be up to 2kgs in weight, it is also necessary that they have both claws intact.
In an export quality crab the two claws will be roughly equal in size, and therefore provide a significant quantity of claw meat, which is darker and richer in flavour than the white meat, which is sweeter. Though crabs are undoubtedly the star attraction of Ministry of Crab, the owners are allquick to stress that the restaurant will be serving a selection of other dishes in addition to their export quality giants. Largely seafood based, there will also be alternatives – such as chicken and vegetable dishes. In fact Mahela (who was elected chairman of the Ministry by coin toss) is proud to say that the Chicken Curry Rice is one of his major contributions to themenu. He hastens to add that he’s not involved in the cooking process - but says that since Dharshan made it for him, during the cricket world cup matches played in Sri Lanka, it’s been one of his favourite dishes.
Given Dharshan Munidasa’s involvement in the new restaurant people may assume that Ministry of Crab is a Japanese restaurant, which is not the case. Though Dharshan is of mixed Japanese heritage, and though Kumar, Mahela and Dharshan all share a love of Japanese food, Ministry of Crab is something entirely new and different for all three o theco-owners. That being said Dharshan’s Japanese heritage certainly has influenced some of the dishes – the menu features such unusual combinations as Olive Oil and Soy Prawns. However the Ministry of Crab menu demonstrates various culinary influences – from Baked Crab, to the Singaporean classic Chilli Crab, to our very own Sri Lankan Crab Curry.What’s more the ingredients used at the Ministry of Crab aren’t just the best, but also the freshest; think about it – there is no way these crabs can be served to you as fresh anywhere else in the world. Employing a daring no freezers policy Ministry of Crab claims, “the only use we’ve found for freezers is to store our food refuse prior to disposal.” All the seafood is served absolutely fresh, with the crabs kept live in a tank at the back of the kitchen. Guests are welcome to come and have a look at their dinner before it’s cooked.
he reason for the no freezer policy is that Dharshan believes freezing seafood detracts from the taste. What’s the point ofbuying fresh seafood (something we are privileged to be able to do in Sri Lanka) – if wefreeze the produce, he questions.The involvement of Kumar and Mahela, huge names in cricket, but lesser known in culinary circles has been causing something of a stir. Some might assume that their involvement is simply as investors who add some PR punch however this does not seem to be the case. Dharshan Munidasa emphasised the fact that he could only ever work with people who love food, which both Mahela and Kumar do. Though neither claims to be a cook themselves -Mahela says cooking is certainly not on his C.V., but they both love to eat. Kumar added that he loves to watch cooking shows on TV, as he admires the unique creativity needed to be a chef – a sort of creativity he feels his friend and co-owner of the restaurant DharshanMunidasa is able to provide to Ministry of Crab.
In fact the friendship between the three coowners is clear, with Mahela even saying that it was really the chance to do something different with two of his close friends that got him involved in the project. Another key factor in the creation of the Ministry of Crab was the building. Ministry of Crab is to be housed in the Old Dutch Hospital in Colombo Fort. Dating back to 1677 the building is thought to among the oldest in Colombo, and is visually stunning. Mahela, Kumar and Dharshan all say that they found the building entirely inspirational. In fact Dharshan Munidasa says that though the project was in motion already, it was only once he saw the building that things just started to fall into place. The building which is being overseen by Minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa, not only looked ministerial but fitted in perfectly with thetheme of the restaurant. The Ministry of Crab has kept all the original design features of the building intact, including the high beamed ceiling and the tiled floor while adding a striking orange and black colour scheme.
|Ministry Of Crab Resturant Images|
Ulitmately the Ministry of Crab is the result of a truly unique combination of exceptional people, excellent natural ingredients and an outstanding heritage location. A project like no other, it aims to highlight the beauty, and bounty of Sri Lanka. From its participation in the Dutch hospital project, which marks the regeneration of the fort, to the involvement ofworld renowned Sri Lankan athletes and the use of Sri Lanka’s finest produce the opening of Ministry of Crab signals the beginning of a new era in Colombo’s culinary scene.Ministry Of Crab