at Taj Samudra Grand Ballroom
44th APACPH Conference, Day 4 (see previously 3.284 Lamprais).
Murgh makhani is a South Asian curry dish. It consists of chicken ("murgh") that's been seasoned, typically in a yogurt-based marinade, and cooked, typically in a tandoori, and braised in a sauce, typically a blend of butter ("makhani")-tomatoes-spices, and served, typically with naan or rice. When done right, the initial tandoori step leaves the chicken slightly blackened, which in turn imparts a distinctive charred flavor kick that balances out against the rich butteriness of the curry. Whereas most Indian curries still taste kinda the same to me, I may be getting a handle on this makhani.
The delegates to the conference were invited to a gala dinner in the Grand Ballroom of the Taj Samudra. During the opening ceremonies, waitstaff brought South Asian-style finger foods to the table. Some of it was pretty good. The sauteed chick peas were nice. Afterwards, it was a buffet consisting primarily of Sri Lankan, Indian, and Chinese fare. Most of it wasn't very good. The best item was the murgh makhani. Overall, I was disappointed, having harbored high hopes of being blown away.
On my own for lunch earlier this afternoon, a web search for restaurants in Colombo led me to Chutneys, which was ranked #5 by tripadvisor.com (see tripadvisor.com's page on Colombo Restaurants). The restaurant happened to be located in the Cinnamon Grand Hotel next door, part of the same complex with the food court where I'd eaten dinner last night (see 3.283 Lamprais). Although Indian, not Sri Lankan, I couldn't resist the combination of proximity and popularity. In fact, it turned out to be South Indian, a distinction crucial to many, including the host who greeted me at the entrance of the restaurant--"Welcome to Chutneys, sir. This is a South Indian restaurant."--but one that escapes me. I'm sure that the differences between South and North Korean food (see generally 2.201 Mandu Guk) are also too subtle for most to discern, much less care about.
The complex includes the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Crescat Residences, and Crescat Shopping Centre.
Anyway, the food at Chutneys was okay. When I admitted my unfamiliarity with the menu, the server recommended that I try the thali, a set meal served on a platter featuring a variety of small dishes, mostly curries, from appetizers to dessert, along with rice and flatbreads. It was okay. It tasted like Indian food. With a couple orange juices, the bill came out to 22,000 rupees (about US$17), pricey compared to the 400 (food) + 150 (beer) rupees that I'd paid for dinner. The service was attentive, the ambiance chic, just perfect for rich foreigners.
dipping sauces: one spicy, one sour, one bittersweet
vegetable thali (counterclockwise from bottom right): soup, curry, curry, curry, curry, curry, potatoes, deep-fried chilies and garlic, yoghurt, cake, tapioca pudding, rice, paratha, appam (roti not pictured)