At this greenery-draped hotel, dining experiences connect guests with the soil and local culture.
Just beyond Kalundewa Mountain, chef Prasantha Giragama helms the sprawling, 374-square-meter kitchen at the Heritance Kandalama. I learn that Giragama cut his teeth here as a sous chef; after a successful stint in Australia as the executive chef at Canberra’s Crowne Plaza, he returned to Sri Lanka to lead the rotating roster of at least 75 chefs of all levels. Together they are tasked with feeding guests in the 150-odd rooms and five restaurants as well as The Cave, a table set in one of the natural grottoes located beside the greenery-draped hotel.
Special dining experiences here aren’t just suited for romance; I get an inside look at the sheer scale of the hotel kitchen during a dinner at the chef’s table, amid a tiled setting flanked by stainless-steel counters and cooking stations. The first course comprises pan-fried lake prawns served with stewed tamarind, spices, and roasted garlic. What follows is the local staple kothu roti, or a traditional flatbread stir-fried in a chicken curry gravy and served with a pungent but sweet combination of pickled young jackfruit, mustard seed, and red onion. I’m struck by how different this condiment tastes from a mature jackfruit.
Next up, the desserts served by Giragama could easily be a meal on their own. I enjoy spoonfuls of Sri Lankan buffalo curd in kithul palm syrup, then a butterscotch-marinated starfruit and traditional watalappan, or coconut custard pudding, and finally a rolled pancake “cigar” in a cardamom-spiced young coconut and sesame sauce. Giragama’s modern take on the classic flavors of Sri Lanka certainly packs a punch.
Heritance Kandalama ; 94-66/555-5000; doubles from US$225
This article originally appeared in the December 2017/January 2018 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Bearing Fruit”).