Hello from Australia and off to M’S Chowki’s

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Hello my lovelies! I know that it’s been so long since I updated the blog. Well as of February 2013 I have been here in Australia, and let me tell you, the culinary journey has been amazing! While Adelaide might not as be as fancy as Sydney or Melbourne, the food culture certainly is amazing. I’ve been thinking about whether I should continue blogging from Australia…. and I thought WHY NOT? Seeing as I’m going to be in this country for a while, why should I not share all the delicious tales? True enough, my Australia-food posts won’t be awfully helpful for those living in Sri Lanka, but maybe it’ll be of some use to the Australians. Either way, I decided that I shall keep the blog going with all it’s Sri Lankan flair and what not. The only difference is that I’m not going to mention prices of the dishes unless someone requires it in the comment section. Most of my blog visitors are Sri Lankan, so it isn’t of much relevance anyone.

So the first place I ate out was a little Indian restaurant named M’S Chowki’s. While I have always enjoyed South Indian cuisine as we find in Sri Lanka (the Dosa/Thosai, Vade and so on), I’ve never really experienced authentic North Indian cuisine in Sri Lankan. Oh sure, I’ve had the odd Butter Chicken or two, but Sri Lanka prefers the South Indian counterpart.

So the Indian restaurant in question is M’S Chowki’s. It’s located on the Main North Road in Blair Athol and is a great place for a good fix on Indian food. Here’s the map for anyone who’s interested. It might be a little out of the way to some people, but I promise you, it’s totally worth it.

So first up on this tongue tingling adventure: The Vada Pav. A lot of my wonderful readers might be wondering, WHAT THE HECK IS THAT (click here for more). Well, imagine a tiny Indian burger, only, except of a meat pattie, there is a delicious deep fried potato cake that oozes flavour and spice. Deep fried potato? Oh, yes, they had me at the words “Deep fried potato”. Goodness!

MSCHOWKISo this is the culprit in question. Sorry about the not too amazing quality of the picture! The thing to remember about Vada Pav is that they are so darn delicious and it’s completely easy to eat several of them. The downside to that is that they are very filling, despite their size, and you end up not being able to eat much during the rest of the meal. I really honestly do not recommend eating more than two if you want space in your tummy to fill up on the rest of the Indian goodies. The wonderful thing about this particular Vada Pav, is that the spices are wonderfully balanced and delicately spiced, and nothing overpowers each other. Deep fried potato in a bun? These Indians know what they’re doing!

From the Vada Pav, we moved on to another wonderful thing invented by the Indians. Paneer, and tikka. Put them together and you get… Paneer Tikka! for those of you who don’t know, Paneer is Indian cheese. Paneer is like cottage cheese, except it isn’t as tart and neither is it crumbly, and it’s a great great snack of unhealthy proportions.

1063386_10151726252606224_746161378_oThe Paneer hot plate at M’S Chowki’s is a sight to behold. It’s arrives at your table smoking and sizzling music to your ears. It’s served with a small mint-yoghurt chutney. The paneer squares are served in a fresh bed of shredded cabbage, onion, cucumber, tomatoes and coriander leaves. It’s zippy and zingy and it’s wonderful when combined with the paneer. Having said that, I don’t think I can really complain much. I’m a sucker wherever anything cheese related is concerned. Mmm. Cheese.

MSCHOWKI2So next we have the curries. This one is one I’ve never tried before. It’s known as Chicken Chettinad, and I have come to love it ever since the first time I tried it.  Surprisingly enough, this dish comes from the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu, South India. However, it’s one of the few South Indian dishes that does not use coconut milk, and instead uses grated coconut to thicken the curry. If anyone is interested the recipe, just click here. Oh, and here’s some sexy looking roti.

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Oh, now, really, this has GOT to be the second best way to chicken. I say second best ONLY because the number one spot goes to Sri Lankan Chicken Curry, which as everyone knows, is simply the best way to each chicken (sorry India, I stay true to my roots!). The Chicken Chettinad was so scrumptious. If I didn’t have manners, I would’ve eaten the whole bowl by myself. No, really. The meat was falling off the bone and it was unbelievably tender. But more than anything the spicing was delicate, balanced and wonderful. The spice wasn’t overpowering. The hit of chili and garlic were perfect and it just just melted away in my mouth. It really did.

And now for the third and fourth dishes, as pictured below. The goat curry and the Tarka Dhal!

1058202_10151726252386224_1485999140_oDon’t be confused. The dish at the back is the chicken and the one in the front is the goat curry, hailed by the creamy looking dhal.

Firstly, about the dhal. Now as Sri Lankans, we love our dhal (පරිප්පු ඉස් මොස්ට් එක්සලන්ට්!) and there’s nothing that will replace our Amma/Athamma’s parippu cury from our hearts. However, I do have to give credit where credit is due, and this Tarka Dhal is delicious. It’s made using a type of lentil known as Channa, it’s a yellow split pea grain, and the dish does not use any coconut milk like the Sri Lanka n Dhal Curry does. I’ve been told that some people thicken their Tarka/Tadka dhal with cream, and I’ve also been told that doing that is bad practice (who knew cream could be a bad thing?). Anyway, it tastes quite different to the dhal that I’ve been used to back home, and I’m not complaining. It’s always nice to taste something nice and clean. Coupled with the goat curry, the balance was brilliant.

Now about the goat curry. There isn’t much for me to say about it, except that is was mutton, and it tasted good. The meat was really soft, and it was actually quite spicy. It was always very rich, thickened with cream, and coupled with the sweet, creaminess of the dhal, the combination worked brilliantly.

And now, to the favourite of the night, and my absolute favourite Indian dish of all time. I could write poetry about this dish.

MSCHOWKI3Known as Palak Paneer or even Saag Paneer, the dish is basically little squares of paneer cheese bathed in a pureed spinach sauce. In certain restaurants, this dish is made using mustard leaves. However, at M’S Chowki’s it’s done using spinach.

Now as big a foodie as I am, I wasn’t too fond of spinach until I tasted this majestic dish. I’m a meat lover, but if I had to eat Palak Paneer for the rest of my life, I’d happily do so. It doesn’t sound like much, pureed spinach and cheese, but my goodness, it’s earth shatteringly good! The puree is smooth, subtle in it’s spicings of fennel and cumin, and it’s very creamy. The little cubes of paneer lie hiding in the puree curry sauce like little nuggets of gold, waiting to be bitten into. I loved this dish so much that I took a Tupperware bowl of it home with me and ate it like I was eating pudding for the following day’s lunch. Yes, it was THAT good that I wanted to eat it by itself. Call me crazy… but spinach, cheese squares in a creamy sauce? I LOVE YOU INDIAN CUISINE. As aware as I was of Indian food when I was back in Sri Lanka, Australia has really opened my eyes to how truly limitless to how the possibilities are. I think it’s safe to say it’s going to be a wonderful time in this country.

If anyone is in Adelaide and they want a good Indian food fix, this is the place to go. And needless to say, M’S Chowki’s has become a favourite of mine, seeing as we go there often, and for delivering amazing meals every single time, M’S Chowki’s get’s a good solid 7.5/10!

Till next time humans! xx

Cafe J

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Negombo has traditionally been slightly laid back and has been the destination of choice for families looking for a day or two out of Colombo. However much to our delight a host of new establishments have popped up along the main strip. Walking down the main strip in Negombo past the infamous statue of the dinosaur, the Rodeo Pub and several other landmarks one encounters a starkly different establishment with a fresh design and ambiance which has turned out to be a bit of a landmark on it’s own since having been opened recently.

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Cafe J

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Cafe J

I wanted to spend some time at Café J and try to piece together as to what makes this particular establishment unique. Café J is managed by Jetwing Hotels and is located right next to Jetwing Blue so it’s pretty easy to get to.

The café has a minimalist design and ambiance splashed with furniture and décor decked out in a fresh invigorating colour scheme which also serves as a unifying theme for some of the dishes, the design of the menus and a host of little details you might miss if you were in a hurry (even the bathrooms follow their unique theme!). It feels chic yet practical and functional, especially the furniture – more about that later!

Fantastic looking menu!

Fantastic looking menu!

The design of the building itself is also worth a closer look. The café is designed in a sort of block-like fashion, a lego like design if you will. There is a main seating area, a kitchen and a crepe station right next to it which serves as the second block. The third block of course is the quaint pastry shop on the other side of the main seating area. Beyond the pastry shop lies an Ilgelato which enjoys some aegis from the patrons of Café J even if it is not under the same management.

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– Treats!

My first stop was the pastry shop and I dug into an éclair straight away. Probably one of the best eclairs I’ve had, counting some of the heavyweight contenders from Colombo who have been featured on this site a number of times. The filling was creamy, smooth and had just the right amount of chocolate. The pastry itself was of excellent consistency.

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Doesn’t that eclair look fantastic?

I wanted to try a few more pastries but having talked to the courteous and helpful staff I got to know that the manager of Café J would be dropping by and asked them if I could meet him and discuss some of the finer details of how the café was set up. Moments later I sat down with Mr Jerome Auvity who hails from France and has spent a number of years as a hotelier in Sri Lanka. Jerome is also the head of operations for Jetwing in Negombo and had decided to try something unique when he drew up the concept for Café J a number of months back. Borrowing a number of aspects from the café culture in France, Jerome seems to have adapted it to the local scene.

“Sri Lanka doesn’t really have a café culture, we tend to move from point A to B in a vehicle and rarely walk down the streets while occasionally popping into a café for a drink or a bite to eat” he tells me.

He also explained that the goal was to bring something of a café culture to the main strip in Negombo because unlike in Colombo people tend to walk down the main strip quite a bit. Complementing this unique feature of the strip in Negombo, Café J hopes to set itself apart on a number of fronts, the design, the cuisine and the ambiance. Seated around us were a number of local as well as foreign tourists, probably in equal numbers and the service staff seemed to be engaging the customers in conversation and seemed very helpful. I also noticed a number of customers who stepped into the pastry shop to pick up their bread and pastries on the way home and Jerome tells me that a lot of people who live in around the main strip buy their fresh bread from the café. Jerome tells me that the secret to establishing good a good ambiance has to do with playing close attention to the air quality, lighting and the music. With its open space design and soft music playing in the background I felt that the cafe created a welcoming ambiance for anyone who had been walking down the main strip and needed to cool off, sit down and grab a drink or bite to eat.

Having had a look at the menu I realized how unpretentious it was “It’s no nonsense food” Jerome tells me. The café offers excellent tea and coffee, cappuccinos and espresso. The staff would also be happy to whip you up a virgin cocktail or two.

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The central station!

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The café also does some excellent salads, soups, quiches and of course crepes! Jerome tells me that each meal is self-contained and complete so you won’t have to worry about starters and a host of courses most of the time. For example ordering a quiche lorraine means that a helping of fresh salad and some soup would accompany your generous helping of quiche. I decided to try the gazpacho and a quiche lorraine first.

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Excellent Gazpacho

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Quiche Lorraine – A complete meal with salad and soup

 The gazpacho was excellent, full of flavor and served as the perfect appetizer. If you find yourself at the café on an exceptionally warm day I highly recommend the gazpacho. I loved it. In between spoonfuls of the gazpacho I decided to dig into my quiche. A generous helping of cheesy carb infused goodness, it went down pretty quickly and I thought the chef did a great job with the presentation of both of these dishes. They were served on some rather interesting looking plates that kept up with the theme of the café. While the quiche itself would serve as a complete lunch offering on any other day Jerome insisted that I try one of their salads and a few offerings from the crepe station. The salad itself burst with flavor, and was an interesting combination which incorporated among other things, beets and carrots in keeping up with the colour scheme. The salad in itself could be considered to be a complete meal and for anyone looking for a great healthy alternative for lunch, it comes highly recommended simply because a lot of local establishments do not carry good salads on their menus. Also a great option if you are vegetarian.

The Salad (mixed vegetables)

The Salad (mixed vegetables)

The chef at the crepe station who was all smiles and had trained under the aegis of Jerome himself, whipped up a savoury crepe for me and it was wonderful to witness it being made right across where I was seated. The spinach and cottage cheese crepe was excellent, full of herbs and a creamy filling, it had hints of coriander which to me was a huge selling point.

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Crepe Station

“We also do meals for people with larger appetites, especially for dinner” said Jerome, and pointed at panel on the wall which advertised a special steak dinner as I finished off my savoury crepe. The wines on offer include Sauvignon Blanc from Spain, a Chilean Merlot and wines from Bordeaux. For desert, I tried a classic white sweet crepe topped with white sugar and butter which was beautifully presented and was quite generous. Crispy, sweet and warm it was a perfect end to the meal.

Savoury crepe with spinach and cottage cheese

Savoury crepe with spinach and cottage cheese

The wines on offer

The wines on offer

The prices of the meals are reasonable and comparable to the slightly upmarket cafes and eateries in Colombo although they were lower than the prices at some of the larger hotels. Personally I thought it was good value for money.

I was intrigued by the type of collapsible furniture used and Jerome pointed out that the chairs and tables were brought down from a French manufacturer. The chairs themselves have a 120 year backstory and Jerome was helpful enough to explain it to me. Every French public park has a set of public seating areas and chairs which are unique, each park as it were has a chair that is completely unique to that park. Jerome was able to acquire chairs from a manufacturer who designs chairs for such a park. The chairs tend to be of a dark green colour when placed in these parks but Café J decided to request a special batch that kept up with the theme. The chairs and furniture at Café J are undoubtedly the soul of the place and lend a bit of French history and culture to it.

Mr. Jerome Auvity and the chef in charge of those awesome crepes!

Mr. Jerome Auvity and the chef in charge of those awesome crepes!

The friendly and courteous staff at Cafe J

The friendly and courteous staff at Cafe J

The cafe has been in operation for some time now and Jerome hopes to expand in order to reach patrons in other major towns and cities around the Island. The café opens its doors at 7 in the morning and is open till 11 in the night. Drop in if you are in Negombo, it’s not too hard to miss and let the staff help you out. Oh and if you run into Jerome say hello and tell him the Tuk Tuk Thosai says hi!

Here’s how to get there:

Morning Rice and Curry at The Matara Buth Kade

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Hello everyone! It’s the beginning of a new week and we have exciting things afoot here at The Tuk Tuk Thosai! Later during the week we have our evening with Kumar Pereira coming up, but for today, it’s our very own Yazmin’s first ever review for The Tuk Tuk Thosai. So today, we go back to our roots as a rice loving nation with this post. There are several Matara Buth Kades around, but according to Yazmin, this one is near the Dehiwala Bakemark. To make YOUR life easier, we have included a map.

The following review was written by our contributor Yazmin, and the photographs were also taken by her! Hope you guys enjoy!😀

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Nothing beats a mountain of freshly cooked red rice, dhal and a rocking pol sambol early in the morning and that’s where this awesome little kade ears more thanfive stars in our books. I’ve been a regular at this little joint thats located snugly between the Spice Store and the turn to Kawdana Road, and it’s pretty much the best place to eat in the Dehiwala region especially if you love your rice and curry very traditional and true to Sinhalese – Sri Lankan cooking. Unlike the other stores that offer similar breakfasts for the early morning work crowd, you get to choose on how healthy you want your breakfast to be – YES, you get choose between red and white rice so you can have your pick of either, depending on how health conscious you are.

Sarath, Krishna and Indunil

Sarath, Krishna and Indunil

Their breakfast menu does contain the usual staples of rice and dhal with the exception of one extra vegetable dish which isn’t too bad at times.  Noteworthy is their cabbage with dried fish. However, their brinjal dish doesn’t live up to expectations. If you are a vegetarian, always ask them if they have added dried fish (Umbalakada/උම්බලකඩ ) in their vegetable dish for the day and in addition, sometimes, the dried fish flavor tends to overpower the dish.

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Other positives about this place include the fact that their dhal isn’t too watery or too has too much of coconut milk in it and complements their freshly made pol sambol very well. The pol sambol has subtle hints of garlic which make it almost impossible to resist. They also do a decent baby omelette with nothing too fancy and have fried fish if you fancy that fare with your breakfast. Quite a variety for such a small franchise that most people would otherwise seem to ignore!

Muslim readers, apologies and PLEASE note that the meat they use is not Halaal certified. 

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If there is one thing that needs a bit of changing is the fact that they use so much dried fish in all their vegetable dishes, which might not be acceptable to the palates of people who don’t really enjoy that sort of thing. However for bringing out good food for a very cheap, affordable rate, The Matara Buth Kade is totally worth the visit!

Overall rating: 8/10

On the Expensivo Meter: Dirt Cheap Dudes [LKR 50 – 100]

Many thanks to Yazmin for compiling this review, and may we discover a myriad of little franchises like this in the future.

Char Kway Teow from China Doll Noodles

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Hello everyone! So first up, to all of you guys reading this, THANK YOU SO MUCH for all the likes and feedback on Facebook! It’s absolutely humbling feeling to know that so many people actually care about our blog. So thank you, and give yourselves a small treat for being awesome. Also, for those of you who want a link to our Facebook page, please click here. Don’t forget to like the page and show us some support!

We had big news this week when Yazmin joined us on The Tuk Tuk Thosai as a contributor. So let me tell you a bit about her.. She’s a adorable and kind, and she’s also very good at what she does, which is sonic media. She works at Yes FM, and she is also the co-founder of Alternative Sundays, a monthly music gig that I myself have participated in. The fact that she wanted to contribute to this blog means a great deal, so keep watching out for a review from her, there will be one out very soon!😀

In other news, I was lucky enough to be invited to a culinary event featuring Masterchef 2011 contestant Kumar Pereira. It was a great honour, and I had an absolute brilliant time at the event, and there will be a blog entry coming up very soon about that as well, so you guys have a LOT to look forward to.

So for today’s review. Now China Doll is a food provider that’s popular on this site, and it’s been a while since I reviewed their food. So in this post, we’re going back to our olden days of China Doll with an order of their Char Kway Teow. For those of you who want to know more about the origins and nitty gritties of the dish, please click here.

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So the first picture is of the Char Kway Teow that I ordered, a photo taken using my crappy phone camera. The second photo is a photo taken off the China Doll Noodles Facebook page so that you can get a clearer idea of what the dish looks like.

So the ingredients in the dish are as follows: Prawn, Cuttlefish, Crisp Chinese Sausage, Garlic, Egg, Onion, red Chili, Bean Sprouts, Spring Onion, Dark Soy Sauce. Now, what were the positives of the dish?

As usual, China Doll delivered in terms of flavour. The noodles were spicy, but it wasn’t overpowering. The noodles were hot when they were delivered, and they smelled wonderful. The prawns were succulent and the cuttlefish was not over cooked and rubbery, and this made me very happy. China Doll uses flat rice noodles for this dish, as tradition demands, and I loved it. The broad, flat noodles were slippery and silky against the palate, which was lovely. The robustness of the flavours certainly shone through, with hints of sesame oil, oyster sauce and a bit of sweetness as a back note highlighting the taste of the food. I was pleased with the overall taste. I DO have to say though, this dish is particularly high in oil, so we don’t recommend eating this every day, although it certainly is delicious enough to be so.

The only worry with this noodle box is that some folks might feel that they do not get value for money. For a regular size portion, you do pay a decently expensive amount, and big eaters such as myself feel a little cheated. However, pricing worries aside, the taste and flavours of the dish were wonderful. Having said that, the cost of food DOES matter, and it does have to be taken into consideration when writing a review.

Overall rating: 6.5/10

On the Expensivo Meter: Hmm I Can Manage [LKR 300 -600]

The Strawberry Mojito from Coco Veranda

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So it’s been a while since the blog featured any beverages and we decided that it was high time that we brought in a drink to freshen things up!😀

So the last two reviews consisted of the Classic Beef Burger from Coco Veranda and the Lamb Burger from Coco Veranda. Rounding up our Coco Veranda triad is their Strawberry Mojito. Now now, don’t get too excited, although the drink is named “Mojito” it does not actually contain any alcohol; it is a mocktail and it is very kid friendly. So first, before the review, here’s a map of Coco Veranda’s location for those of you who don’t know.

And now, a picture of the drink!101_3476

Doesn’t it look delectable? And yes, it totally was!

So what did we like about the drink?

Firstly, it was well presented, and it was jam packed with strawberries. Coco did not cut corners and use a meager amount of strawberries; the drink was full of strawberry slices that you could chew while you drank. Also, the flavour of the drink. I liked my drink as it was because it had just enough sugar syrup to sweeten the drink but the tangy-ness of the strawberries were still retained. I know several people who would have preferred their drink to be sweeter. The sugar content is a personal preference, and if you feel like you need more sugar in your mojito, Coco’s staff will be happy to provide you with some sugar syrup.

What did we not like about the drink?

Personally I would have liked my drink to have had some crushed mint in it. Not only would the mint have complimented the strawberries in the beautifully, it would also have been staying true to it’s name. Mojitos contain mint and we at the Tuk Tuk Thosai feel that this non alcoholic version should have also contained a bit of mint just to add that extra zip and zing.

For the price, we feel that a little bit more effort could have gone into the drink. Funnily enough, this drink costs almost as much as the burgers at Coco Veranda, so you’d expect something spectacular about the drink. While the taste was good and the strawberry flavour shone through, we felt as if something was missing. A hit of that mint would have made things much better. We love Coco, but we didn’t love this drink as much as we loved the burgers!

Overall rating: 5/10

On the Expensivo Meter: Hmm I Can Manage [LKR 300 – 600]

The Lamb Burger from Coco Veranda

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So a week ago you guys got to read about the fabulous Classic Beef Burger from Coco Veranda and I am happy to say that the response has truly been great! If any of you guys got the chance to sample the burger, do let me know what you think!

So I have big news for you guys! Today I received my non-conditional offer from the University of South Australia, which means that I will be leaving this lovely island very soon.😦 I’m excited but hey, you guys shouldn’t worry about the reviews, because Praveen (@PravNJ) will be taking over the reviews from me. Don’t worry, he has an excellent palate, and I trust him completely to deliver, and you guys won’t be disappointed. Meanwhile, I will personally continue reviewing food from Australia or wherever in the world that I may travel to. I have big plans!😀

So anyway, on with the review for today! As a part of the 31st night dinner, we also had a Lamb Burger (which was Praveen’s choice for the night by the way), and let us tell you now itself, that Coco certainly does NOT disappoint when it comes to burgers.

So as usual, here’s a Google map for those of you who don’t know where Coco Veranda is.

So now, here’s a picture of the fabulous Lamb Burger

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So, what did we love about the burger? Was it the side of crispy fries? Or was it the toasted sesame seed bun? Or maybe it was the delicious meat pattie? Well, needless to say, we loved EVERYTHING about the burger, and the breakdown of the burger is as follows!

First, the delicious pattie! Unlike beef which doesn’t require a whole array of herbs and spices to bring out it’s flavour, lamb is a complete vehicle for spice, and Coco Veranda has certainly capitalized on this face. The meat was juicy and tender, and it was flavoursome. Seasoned to perfection, every bite gave away to a background hit of delicate herbs such as celery, cilantro and probably rosemary. I also sensed other spices such as onion and garlic. The wonderful thing about this burger is that none of the flavours were overpowering. Everything was very subtle and it really allowed the taste of lamb meat to shine through. In addition, and probably most importantly, the pattie was not dry, and it was highly delectable on the palate.

The burger was served with a bed of lettuce, tomato, onion and barbercue sauce stuffed inside the bun. The barbecue sauce was delicious and tangy, and again, did nothing to over power the taste of the burger, and let me say, Praveen and I were very pleased and happy about that!

So how does Coco’s burger’s stack up against the McDonald’s burgers?

For a lesser price, you get a more flavoursome, more carefully prepared burger at Coco, and what’s more, you get the friendly staff and wonderful ambiance to go with it as well. This burger comes highly recommended from all of us here at the Tuk Tuk Thosai

Overall rating: 8.5/10

Position on the Expensivo Meter: Hmm I Can Manage [LKR 300 – 600]

ALSO: The next time you see me, you’ll be reading about the 2011 Masterchef contestant Kumar Pereira. Stay tuned for details!

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