Sri Lanka's Best Restaurant: Ministry of Crab at Historic Dutch Hospital, Colombo

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 Constitution

  1. We only serve the best catch of the day. When it comes to crab we don't serve them small, meatless, with one claw missing, or with unevenly sized claws - only real export quality giants.

  2. We won't buy anything frozen, and we certainly don't freeze our seafood. The only use we've found for freezers is to store our food refuse for disposal.

  3. We know that all the fish in the sea can be eaten as sashimi. If a restaurant serves good quality seafood it should be able to serve it as sashimi. Many don't/can't/won't. We do.

  4. We treat all our ingredients with the utmost respect, using techniques which stem from japanese culinary philosophies and practices. These same principles are employed at the finest japanese restaurants, such as our sister restaurant nthonbashi.

  5. We consider forks and knives merely an option. We have specialised crab utensils to help you pry succulent crab meat from its shell, but digging in with your hands is not frowned upon.

  6. We aim to remind you that sri lanka is a beautiful island nation, which is reflected in the seafood available to us. Our oceans, unlike those in many southeast asian countries, are clean and this is why our seafood is simply amazing.

  7. We aim to be one of the lowest "food-mile" restaurants in the world; hence we do not import any major ingredients.

  8. We are proud of the reputation sri lankan crabs enjoy in singapore - thank you singapore! But we're even prouder of being the first institution in sri lanka dedicated to serving you the best of our crabs here in their home country.

  9. We will model our future menus based on this constitution. Do visit our website for specials as we keep plating trend-setting dishes.

  10. We are privileged to be serving you inside a building that was constructed over 400 years ago by the dutch. We designed this restaurant to exemplify the beauty and history of this building, using special methods in order to preserve the floor and walls. Your chair may wobble a bit, but we hope you will enjoy such charms!

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.