Address: 403 Somerset St W, Ottawa
Hours: 11:30am – 2pm, 5 – 9pm (M – F); 5 – 9pm (Sat); 12 – 2pm, 5 – 9pm (Sun)
I recently met my wife at this hole-in-the-wall on one of Somerset’s less glamourous sections. It was one of those rainy weekday evenings when you just don’t want to cook and head out for laid-back dinner.
I’d never tried Sri Lankan cuisine before, so I was looking forward to trying Ceylonta out! How would it differ from the broad cornucopia of pan-Indian dishes that are now quite commonplace? With my inexperience, would I even be able to tell the difference?
The menu has a lot of variety without being worryingly large. There are several options each of appetizers, biryani, dosai, rotti, curries, roasts, and devilled dishes. No, the latter wasn’t a lot of egg-based hors d’oeuvres, but rather various protein options cooked in a tomato-based chilli sauce from Sri Lanka.
We started off the meal with lentil vadai ($4). I always prefer these dense, savoury, deep-fried fritters to the grainier chickpea vadai, and when paired with a refreshing and oniony yogurt dip, were a great start to the meal.
For our first main, we chose the vegetable thali ($17). As with any thali, this was an excellent way to get a broad range of flavours, ingredients, and textures. Two of the standouts were the sweet and coconutty squash, and the earthy, rich eggplant. This fine spread came with rice and shatteringly crisp pappadam.
The masala dosai ($14) was an impressive sight: at more than a couple feet long, this rolled crepe was nearly as wide as our table! I loved the contrast of textures of the dosai – with a lightly crisp exterior and edges that gave way to a thin, but fluffy interior. It was somewhere between a French crepe and a pancake, and was great on its own, but it was also filled with curried potatoes, making for a carb-tacular dish.
Last up was one of the “roasts”, the chicken palandi ($17). In stark contrast to the vegetable thali, the palandi was pretty much all meat. The sweet, very red sauce wasn’t quite what we were expecting from the menu’s description, but the chicken was tender and moist, and the sweetness certainly appealed to my basic-ass North American taste buds.
Now if you’re wondering how two people ate all this food, the simple answer is that we didn’t. Not even close. Luckily, we know ourselves pretty well at this stage in our lives, so we planned ahead and brought a few reusable storage containers to keep some Styrofoam from going to the dump.
Service was quite good, with the food coming out quickly, and plenty of water top ups to keep the spice at bay.
While I can’t say I’m now a connoisseur of Sri Lankan vs Indian cuisine, it was a very enjoyable meal at reasonable prices. I wouldn’t put Ceylonta in the upper echelons of South Asian restaurants in Ottawa, but If you’re within easy reach of them in Centertown, you’ll do well to give them a try.