For us Sri Lankans, Biriyani is a dish that is as near and dear to our hearts as a good rice and curry. Served in almost every restaurant, Biriyani is an easy find in our country but to secure ourselves a good one – one that’s packed with all the right flavours and all the right ingredients – is somewhat of a difficult task.
Stepping up to the challenge is the newly opened ‘Nusantara Biriyani’ – a small restaurant down Rosmead Place Colombo 07. The restaurant’s Executive Chef Rizwan comes from generations of confectioners and is a jeweller by profession working in the gem industry for over 25 years. “I used to travel all over the world for business and travelling as often as I did, I got tired of foreign food and would often opt to cook my own meals during our stay. One of the dishes I would constantly make for myself and other colleagues would be Biriyani and almost every time – it would be a hit!”.
Chef Rizwan has been cooking since his childhood and while he may have dived into a professional career path in the gem and jewellery industry, his passion and love for cooking has survived and thrived over the years. With excellent feedback and support, Rizwan began to market his Biriyani to expatriates and soon found a willing investor to start his own business.
“We opened Nusantara Biriyani a mere month ago and we started small, offering just 3-4 items on the menu. Despite the limited menu, we’ve got plenty of orders and we’ve heard really good comments from our customers.”
No Fusion, No Drama reads the menu. Nusantara Biriyani promises absolutely 100% authentic regional food with hints of Sri Lankan, Malay, Indonesian and Persian influences.
Nusantara’s best seller is the Nusantara Luxury Chicken Biriyani Sawan (Rs. 8,000) that is easily shared by 8-10 persons. The Sawan, which is weight heavy with fragrant rice topped off with fleshy pieces of curry masala chicken, is accompanied by an additional Nusantara Special roast chicken with potato, 8 whole eggs, Malay pickle, peas and cashew curry, Thoplan (Maldive fish) sambal, mint chutney and Nusantara salad.
The main highlight of the Biriyani is the fragrant rice made with saffron and a special spice mix that has been in Rizwan’s family for generations. While the biryani lacked the usual bright colour we associate with it (due to Chef Rizwan’s refusal to use colouring agents), the flavours of the Nusantara Biriyani were distinct and different. Paired with a cooling mint chutney to cut through the fat of the biriyani – we found ourselves happily digging into the spiced rice and all its side dishes.
While the Sawan requires 24-hour notice in advance, Nusantara offers individual Nusantara Chicken Biriyani Lunch Bowls (Rs. 550) at any given time.
Alternatively, they also serve their Nusantara Curry Chicken Rice Bowl (Rs. 550) with chicken marinated in a kochimiris paste and gravy, boiled egg and fragrance rice with fresh, crunchy cucumbers. The chicken, though marinated in a kochimiris paste, is mild in its spiciness.
One of our favourite dishes off the menu is their Indonesian/Malaysian influenced dessert Nusantara Rich Milk Muscat (Rs. 200 per piece and Rs. 1250 per 1kg) which was, hands down, the best muscat we’ve ever had. The muscat, generously combined with cashew nuts, is slow-cooked to perfection for over 5 hours. The edges were chewy while the inside remained gelatinous. We strongly recommend trying this dessert!
At the moment, Nusantara’s menu is short and simple – offering dishes they do best, knowing they are only delivering quality food. In the future, Chef Rizwan plans to expand the menu but for now – they are happy doing what they love.
Overall, we were happy that Nusantara did stick to its tagline – no fusion, no drama; just simple, delicious food.
Nusantara Biriyani is available on UberEats and for pickup/dine-in at No.27/5, Rosmead Place, Colombo 07. They operate from 10 am to 8 pm and does not offer Pork or Lard.
photos Kushan Pathiraja