“So, you said this is Korean food?” my dining mate asked as we crossed the parking lot toward the glowing sign of House of Curry in Rosemount. It opened in a tiny strip-mall spot in December.
“No, no, curry. I said it’s called House of Curry. It’s Sri Lankan food.”
“Oh!” she answered. Followed by silence. Because what do we know about Sri Lankan food, besides that the island nation it comes from dangles off the southern tip of India?
One meal at House of Curry will clue you in. First of all, there’s a lot of coconut, especially in milk form. Practically half of the menu is simmered in the stuff. And this pattern is an indicator of the intensity and richness of flavor you’ll find in most of the dishes at House of Curry. Overall, everything we tasted was well seasoned and filled with lively, distinctive spices.
For example, the Deviled Shrimp ($14). According to House of Curry’s menu, “deviled” refers to a protein sauteed with onions, peppers, and tomatoes. It’s a lot like stir fry, but with an intoxicating caramelized edge. Each pink curl of shrimp is lacquered in a slightly sugary something that balances the savory arch of the accompanying vegetables. We ordered the dish at medium spiciness, which was enough to fill our mouths with comforting heat without masking the food’s flavor. Delicious.
A dish you probably won’t recognize is Pol Roti ($12). This Sri Lankan specialty arrives with four pieces of coconut flat bread, a ramekin of spicy onion chutney, and four pieces of tuna that have been marinated in citrus and black pepper. This is roti like you’ve never seen. The dough is composed of shredded coconut and coconut milk, which gives it a sweetly nutty flavor and dense, almost cookie-like texture. When you top it with the chutney and dry fish, the combination is sharply sweet and tangy and satisfyingly chewy.
A big bowl of Dhal and Spinach Curry ($9) was creamy, piping hot in both temperature and spice level, with fantastic grassy flavor from actual fresh spinach leaves. And the restaurant’s Lamb Curry ($13) has cumin in its core. The thick chunks of earthy lamb are even better as leftovers the next day. I highly recommend dousing just about everything in the bright mint-cilantro sauce that’s served with complimentary chickpea crackers before your meal.
Kottu is known as one of the national dishes of Sri Lanka, and we found the restaurant’s Chicken Kottu ($13) worthy of the honor. It struck us as a subtler, more texturally engaging riff on chicken fried rice, with thin shreds of roti bread subbing for the rice and a richly spiced, mildly hot gravy (served on the side) lending a punch of deep flavor.
Warmth and richness of flavor are echoed in House of Curry’s interior; red and gold hues drench every surface, the lighting’s nice, and the staff’s unbeatable. Before we left, one of the lovely owners presented us with a tiny taste of a dessert called Watalappan ($3). You could call it Sri Lankan bread pudding. This delicate, eggy square of cake is soaked in coconut milk and a syrup made from something our server called a treacle tree. The effect is all floral caramel flavor, spicy with cardamom, but light enough to leave you wanting just one more spoonful.
James Norton contributed to this review.
Sri Lankan Food
3420 150th St W
Rosemount, MN 55068
OWNERS: Nalaka Abeywickrema and Vini Dissanayake
Mon-Fri 11am-2pm (lunch buffet)
BAR: Beer and wine
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: No / No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Limited
ENTREE RANGE: $8-14