I’ve eaten quality dinners in this little yellow house with the neon palm tree jutting out of the snow, but had never considered it for lunch. That is, until I played hooky and went to the movies. A matinee. By myself. And for what I figure would have been the price of a small popcorn and a drink at the food court, I had two heaping plates from the Ceylonta lunch buffet, before waddling down Carling to catch the two o’clock show.
This is the second (newer) location of the long-running Sri Lankan restaurant on Somerset Street West. The downtown location draws the noon office hungries. The west end Ceylonta seems to be busier in the evening. The space is quite pretty: tamarind coloured walls, batik tablecloths, windows framed with floaty panels of silk. There are upstairs rooms for private parties or overflow.
It’s possible you have to have grown up with fried sprats in order to really love them. But they’re loaded with Omega 3s and all that good stuff, so I take a small pile. The tiny fish are crunchy and paddling in an oily brew of cooked-down onion and chilies. I prefer the mildly addictive urid dahl cakes (lentil flour with onion and cilantro, shaped like mini donuts) that come with an immensely likeable coriander-mint chutney. I take a few donuts to dunk in the yummy green and nubbly goo, along with a bowl each of the soups on offer. Small bowls, but I return for a second round of the rasam. Tamarind juice based, with mustard seed, cumin and cardamom, curry leaves and chilies, it’s a clear, fragrant soup studded with tomato and a few soft vegetables, and has just the right bit of bite.
Then back I go for the curries. Sri Lankan cuisine distinguishes itself through the dry-roasting of its spices, which tends to deliver darker-coloured stews. On offer were a chicken curry with curry leaves; a spicy beef curry fragrant of cloves; a sweet squash curry in a rich coconut-based sauce; an egg curry; a mild cabbage curry with pandan leaves, and a yellow dahl curry.
Tapioca with green cardamom and rice pudding with cinnamon bark were the sweets on offer.
Ceylonta’s lunch buffet costs $12.95. (About the price of a matinée, actually.)
Lunch is served Monday to Saturday and dinner is served daily. Ceylonta. 2920 Carling Ave., 613-828-7812.