AJ Sri Lankan Cuisine
By David Sutton
AJ Sri Lankan Cuisine
G/F 14 Sai Kung Hoi Pong Street
Tel. 2792 2555
Grub: Sri Lankan - it's similar to Indian in many respects but also includes stir-fry and noodle dishes.
Vibe: It's a small restaurant, but the high V-shaped ceiling with wooden beams give it a spacious and airy feel, which is enhanced by the light streaming in through the front. Staff are helpful and friendly.
Who to bring: The trekking party. Sai Kung is ideal for hiking, and this a great place to refuel after a walk.
What's hot: One of the first things you notice is that, unlike most restaurants, they don't wait for you to place your orders before offering welcome bites: at AJ's, poppadums and a glass of water are on the table shortly after you're seated. The poppadums are served with a tangy-sweet pineapple chutney which you can nibble while you peruse the menu at leisure.
As with Indian cuisine, expect samosas, flat breads and curries. But Sri Lankan food is also influenced by Southeast Asia dishes such as spring rolls and fried noodles. The spiciness of most of the dishes can be modified according to taste and our waitress was careful to ask how the dishes should be prepared - mild, medium or spicy. An exception is the stuffed pepper with shrimps, which was a rather tempting option as a starter, but the three chillis on the menu warned it might be just a bit too spicy for a sunny afternoon. Instead, the deep-fried fish and potato cutlets got proceedings underway, served piping hot with a minty sauce.
Our next dish was devilled prawns, a stir-fry made with onions, peppers and tomatoes in a gingery garlic sauce. The green beans, cooked in a lightly spiced coconut sauce, were reminiscent of the mild yellow curries of Southeast Asia.
To mop things up, there is a choice of plain, red or saffron rice, or breads such as paratha or roti. The coconut roti is particularly good. For dessert, try watalappam, one of the two sweet dishes on the menu. It's a traditional pudding made with coconut milk, palm sugar and egg with cinnamon, and cloves and other sweet spices.
What's not Some islanders see Sai Kung as a bit of a trek. There's really very little wrong with this place.
Cost: Starters and soups are around HK$35-40, curries are all HK$49-59 and stir-fried devilled dishes are HK$89. Fried rice dishes are between HK$50-HK$75.