Chef and co-owner of two of Asia's best restaurants in Colombo, Dharshan Munidasa, speaks of his love affair with seafood ahead of his trip to Mumbai
Munidasa with fresh tuna and crab at his restaurants
"We're opening Ministry of Crab in Bangkok this year. We've also been in talks with someone in Mumbai, but nothing has materialised yet. It's certainly not happening in 2017," confirms Dharshan Munidasa over the phone lines from Galle, when we tell him that rumours of his brand expanding into Mumbai have been creating quite the buzz in the city of late. The renowned chef will be here as part of the World Gourmet Festival, which begins this weekend.
Forty-six-year-old Munidasa is the chef and co-owner of several restaurants in Sri Lanka, the prominent ones being Nihonbashi and Ministry of Crab, which feature in this year's list of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants at number 49âÂÂÂÂand 29, respectively. While he launched the former in his early 20s after noticing a dearth of authentic Japanese cuisine on the island, the latter came into being when he partnered with his friends, cricketing legends Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. In July 2014, he launched another restaurant, called Kaema Sutra, which serves contemporary Sri Lankan cuisine, in partnership with Bollywood actor Jacqueline Fernandez.
Cooking a crab dish
"At the World Gourmet Festival, I will be creating six dishes. It will be a combination menu featuring three dishes from Nihonbashi, and three from Ministry of Crab," shares the half-Japanese, half-Sri Lankan chef, whose food is a reflection of his mixed heritage.
Interestingly, Munidasa never trained to be a chef, and took to cooking during his college years in the US, after deciding he couldn't eat any more cafeteria fare. His presence, year after year, on the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list is proof enough that you don't need a culinary degree to taste success. "But everyone on that list, whether self-taught or not, has their own talents. That said, being on the list again this year feels great, and we are going to keep pushing and doing our best," he shares humbly.
Mahela Jayawardene, Dharshan Munidasa and Kumar Sangakkara
An advocate for the use of local produce in cooking, Munidasa frequently visits fish markets in search of the freshest catch. "This morning itself, I saw someone selling some wonderful stuff on my way to the restaurant in Galle. I ended up buying crabs, and about four lobsters. It's amazing that we can get such good quality seafood right where we live," he says, sharing that on his upcoming visit, he will use fish caught off Mumbai's coast. "I've been to Sassoon Docks on a previous visit.
Pepper Crab at Ministry of Crab
Although I won't be trying it this time, the one local fish I've always wanted to cook with is the Bombay duck," he adds.
While an upcoming trip to Singapore leaves him with only a little over 48 hours in Mumbai, Munidasa is hoping to spend some time outside out of the kitchen. He says, "On an earlier visit, I ended up eating at Bademiya. I liked it — it has a lot of character," he signs off.
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