On the way to Staten Island’s Sri Lankan gem San Rasa the other day, I felt a little uneasy. I was quickly losing yet another argument in my head. I’m bringing another couple with me and I don’t have reservations on a Saturday night. That is because the young man on the phone (I feel a little old today) told me I don’t need to make reservations. And not because he knew who I was! “Are you sure? Its Saturday, prime time and its the four of us”. Emphasizing on the number 4 which can be very large on a Saturday night across the pond. “Yes, I’m sure sir. You don’t need reservations”. Fine! But if we come in to a full house and we don’t get a table.. oooh boy.. watch out. Sentences that begin with F words like “Forget this, we are going to Lakruwana ” will be flying out the door. Forgetting to take the young man’s name however was the mistake that lead to losing the argument in my head.
We show up to an empty restaurant! And I don’t mean empty as in a couple in the corner, and a family from France that read about the place on EWZ in the other corner (like last time). I mean there was no one there. “Should we leave and check out Lakruwana” briefly entered our minds. But this is after all, Staten Island’s lone entry in the coveted Z-List, and we made it this far
unharmed. I’ve been to San Rasa for lunch, and dinner at the old location, but this was the first dinner at the new and improved San Rasa. Seeing it empty disappointed but did not totally shock me.
Without upsetting too many people, San Rasa is simply too far for most folks who appreciate good food. There are plenty of people on the island of Staten that appreciate good food, but not nearly enough to fill a quarter of San Rasa on a Saturday night. Staten Island doesn’t deserve and cant really appreciate something like this. Give em a buzzy American Italian trattoria, a pizzeria that serves chicken parm, a few Russians to satisfy the Russian communities, a few glorifies diners like Z-one, Z-two, [Name any chain], and the residents are more than satisfied. Like any residents in the burbs would I should add. For most residents the ferry area is quite a schlep (30-40 mins for many) and the true island gems like Sri Lankan Lakruwana, San Rasa, New Asha, and other gems like Enoteca Maria are unrecognizable names. The ferry area is almost like a Manhattan extension, albeit too far and arguably not interesting enough for Manhattanites.
But as often said on this blog, Sri Lankan food is the number one reason to stay after you take those selfies with lady liberty off the ferry. The new San Rasa is not only walking distance, but its décor is now much closer to the Sri Lankan museum-like Lakruwana. The old place was too bare bones and cold looking. Not that I mind when the food is that good. Sunday at all the Staten Island’s Sri Lankan is Funday. By that I mean, some of the best, most unique buffets in the city. For $12 you get a nice array of vegetable, rice, egg goodies, along with two meat specialties. Exceptionally great value and the only buffet I take my family.
But dinner is when the fun really starts. San Rasa turns out is under new management and new chef. While the empty house did not exactly look promising, the result was best San Rasa ever. Meet chef Lalith (one name like Madonna) who has taken the great chef Sanjay lead, adding his own bolder, spicier spin. You feel it right off the bat with the Mulligatawny soup. Unlike the prior Mulligatawny, this one is a little creamier, nuttier, spicier, and simply has more oomph. Thats the only starter I recommend. Save room for the goodies to come. Like the Lamprie, an old dutch colony classic that is the one must get here. The pictures here can only set the bar low, or prevent you from ordering it altogether. But that would be a mistake. Proceed with the hoppers and egg hoppers (not available on this day) before hitting the “Ziggurat” shaped String Hopper Kottu, all with your choice of your favorite curry. And with that my friends I’m announcing the addition of “Ziggurat” to my vocabulary. A fittingly bizarre combination of Ziggy and Borat (for those that know me too well).
Add the award winning Chicken Biryani to the list of musts here. It comes oddly decorated as if it just came from a Bar Mitsvah in the Staten Island Hilton. But I’m betting its the flavor profile that gave it a third place finish in a recent NYC Biryani competition. Mounds of crispy fried chicken on top of gorgeously spiced basmati with more succulent chicken inside was like no Biryani I’ve ever seen. And instead of dessert, finish with a fiery sizzling Deviled something. We usually do shrimp.
San Rasa – better and emptier than ever. “Ayubowan” – May you live long!
19 Corson Ave, Staten Island
Recommended Dishes: Mulligatawny soup, Lamprie, Hoppes, Kottu Roti, Chicken Biryani, Deviled Shrimp