Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sri Lankan Food via Staten Island

I've been through Staten Island about a dozen times, but I've been there -- feet on the ground -- only twice.

We live only three or four miles away, but it's not the distance that keeps us away. It's the bridge toll. Crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from Bay Ridge into Staten Island is $11. It's free in the opposite direction, which lends itself to many jokes about how it would be much easier to charge people to get the hell out of Staten Island. But really, Staten Island doesn't seem so bad. It's just suburban New York City.

Anyway, visit #1 of 2 to Staten Island was more than two years ago -- we were dropping off some guests at the Newark airport at the beginning of summer. We still needed an air conditioner. Staten Island has a Home Depot and we had a car. Voila.

Visit #2 was just this past Sunday, and it was much more enjoyable. We went to lunch at San Rasa, a Sri Lankan restaurant just a few blocks away from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal -- and thus no bridge toll.

Several weeks ago I read about San Rasa in the New York Times. It stuck out for two reasons:
  1. I had never had Sri Lankan food.
  2. It had a buffet!
Non-Chinese all-you-can-eat buffets are rare in New York, especially for only $11 a person.

In the last few months I've discovered how much I like Indian food, and the Sri Lankan food we ate was very similar. Many of the 15 or so dishes on San Rasa's buffet were curried -- the fish, lentil and green beans dishes being my favorites; Paul liked the mutton. We also loaded up on saffron rice and some kind of eggplant dish. (Luckily everything was labeled, but I have no idea now what they were called.) Dessert was tastier than I expected: homemade yogurt topped with palm honey.

Paul said the atmosphere reminded him of a now-closed Polynesian restaurant in Columbus. I can't verify that, but the music certainly didn't fit an island theme -- a lot of oldies, Elvis and Johnny Cash spirituals.

Overall, it was one of the most enjoyable restaurant experiences I've had in New York. San Rasa's food was delicious, the price was reasonable and we had authentic foreign cuisine in an ethnic neighborhood off the beaten path. How can you beat that?

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