The Ministry of Crab: Sri Lanka’s first restaurant dedicated to serving export quality lagoon crabs is the brainchild of celebrated chef and restaurateur Dharshan Munidasa. Partnering with Sri Lankan Cricketing Legends Mahela Jayawardane and Kumar Sangakkara, the Ministry of Crab was launched on 12th December, 2011 and is housed in the renovated 400 year old Dutch Hospital, where it has proved to be a tremendous success.
The best of Sri Lanka’s Lagoon crabs, commonly held to be the best crabs in the world, have for decades been more easily available internationally than in Sri Lanka itself. It was an interest in rectifying this situation, among other things, which brought Dharshan, Mahela and Kumar together to form Ministry of Crab. The three co-owners agree that Ministry of Crab is intended as an ode to Sri Lanka, as the quality of the produce served at the restaurant reflects the bounty of the island. “Our oceans,” says Dharshan, “unlike those in many Southeast Asian countries, are clean, and that is why our seafood is simply amazing.” Thus the crabs served at the restaurant really are a breed apart. They are not only bigger than your average (the biggest crab served to date weighed an impressive 3.2kgs!), but they also have both claws intact, which means they are rich in dark, flavoursome claw meat.
The ingredients used at the Ministry of Crab aren’t just the best, but also the freshest. Sourced and served in Sri Lanka, there is no way these crabs could be served to you as fresh anywhere else in the world. In fact, Ministry of Crab employs a daring no freezers policy, claiming, “the only use we’ve found for freezers is to store our food refuse prior to disposal,” as the co-owners believe that freezing both detracts from the taste and renders redundant the use of fresh produce.
The restaurant’s commitment to showcasing the best of Sri Lanka extends beyond its use of local produce. It is one of few fine dining restaurants in Colombo to serve local dishes. While its curry dishes (Crab Curry, Clay Pot Prawn Curry, and Chicken Curry Rice) are all excellent, it is the Pol Sambol, which is scraped on order, and the Kade Bread- the perfect accompaniment for any of the crab dishes, which have proved the unexpected successes of this past year. The other stand out items being the Small Island Iced Tea, a local take on the traditional Long Island Iced Tea, which is a combination of Arrack & natural iced tea, and the Iced Tea Soda, an all-natural preservative free alternative to traditional soft drinks, which is unique to Ministry of Crab.
The involvement of Kumar and Mahela, huge names in cricket, but lesser known in culinary circles initially served to generate interest in the restaurant. Some might assume that their contribution is simply as investors who add some PR punch; however this does not seem to be the case. Though neither claims to be chefs, both seem to have a genuine love for food. According to Kumar, being part of Ministry of Crab is a dream come true as he has always wanted to own a restaurant. In fact, when he’s not on the field Kumar unwinds by watching cooking shows on TV. While Mahela, who was elected chairman of the restaurant by coin toss, admits that cooking is certainly not on his C.V., he clearly knows what he likes, and it’s on his insistence that the Chicken Curry Rice (which has proven extremely popular) was featured on the menu.
Unique in its dedication to showcasing the best of Sri Lanka’s produce, Ministry of Crab has begun to change the face of Colombo’s culinary scene, and received due recognition by being ranked on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2015 and 2016 at No. 43 and No. 25 respectively. The restaurant was also voted the S. Pellegrino Best Restaurant in Sri Lanka (2016), an award that is a part of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Ministry of Crab is open Daily for Dinner and on Weekends for Lunch.