Upali’s was recommended to me by a friend who informed me of its popularity in the Colombo restaurant scene. It is situated opposite the lush lawns of Devi Park, close to the Town Hall.
The Restaurant is spacious and has a very comfortable and homely feel to it. The walls are adorned with historical paintings and porcelain plates with handwritten well-wishing messages displayed on the wall.
We arrived a little late for Lunch on a Sunday afternoon. We were was told that this place gets really packed and a reservation necessary, however, it was relatively empty when we arrived. When we casually asked the waiter, he informed us that the lunch crowd had just dispersed.
We were shown to a table by a courteous and polite waiter. He informed us that the lunch set menu was still available. We chose to go with this option. It included a choice of two types of rice served with your choice of three vegetables, curried gravy and coconut sambal.
As an appetizer, we were served papadams with red chili and dried fish. The papadams were deliciously crunchy and great to keep my hunger pangs at bay.
We choose the white and red rice. Red rice is basically unshelled rice, meaning only the outer hard husk has been removed, leaving the inner cover (bran) of the rice grain intact. The red rice reminded me of brown rice, it is denser and has a slight crunchy flavor.
Amongst the vegetables we got to try out, the cucumber gravy stood out for me. I also loved spicy and bold flavor of the curried coconut potato gravy, which had a chili aftertaste to it.
The waiter comes around in his trolley with the various dishes and gravies to place on your plates.
We ordered two curries to accompany our meal side of Chicken Varuwal, which is chicken pieces sautéed with various spices served on a sizzling plate. This was absolutely divine, the chicken was juicy and succulent in retaining the various spices.
We also ordered the Elu Mas Mirisata, which is sautéed fresh mutton cubes with onions, tomato, ginger garlic, green chili and tamarind juice. The mutton was fresh and delicious and was balanced well by the tamarind. A very flavorful dish, which was a nice blend of salty and slightly sweet.
I did not save any room for dessert as I was too engulfed in the beautiful mélange of falvours in my mouth, however this did not stop me. I ordered the Wattalapan, this is a popular pudding dessert made from coconut milk, jiggery, cashew nuts, eggs, with dashes of spices such as cardamom, cloves and nutmeg. The texture was chewy and quite sweet, a bit too sweet for my liking but excellent when I mixed it with the coconut ice cream we had ordered.
On that note, the coconut ice cream was creamy, rich, with the coconut flavor perfectly pronounced through each spoon. It was so delicious we ordered one more.
Eating local cuisine is what I try do whenever I travel. Food is one of the greatest ways to get culturally immersed and get insight into a how the locals eat. I couldn’t have chosen a better place for my taste buds to receive a culinary education. Upali’s stood out for me as offering a brilliant traditional Sri Lankan cuisine. This place offers value for money for quality fresh authentic food. Highly recommended. I extremely enjoyed the myriad of flavors and spices that I experienced as I devoured each spoonful.