Feb 15 2023. views 738
Sri Lanka’s food scene has continued to grow as Lankans increasingly demonstrate an affinity for embracing a variety of different cuisines. However, there has always been a significant dearth of Pakistani cuisine in the country, perhaps due to people conceiving Pakistani and Indian food to be one and the same. While the differences may not be overt, the subtleties and nuances in flavour are often inspired by the specific regions many of the dishes originated from. In light of this, Khayaban is a welcome addition to the local food hub. Located at Food Studio, One Galle Face Mall, Khayaban has already been attracting significant footfall since it opened in December last year.
This isn’t the first rodeo for Khayaban. In fact, I’m told it was incorporated back in 1998 in Colombo 3. Co-owner Naufer shared that it had a good run at the time, however, various logistical challenges, coupled with the ongoing civil war at the time impacted the restaurant’s longevity. As luck would have it, an opportunity arose and Khayaban relaunched last December as a joint venture with Food Studio, Sri Lanka's only food court management company.
Khayaban has a limited menu focusing on perfecting all dishes on offer. As a diner, you are presented with a well-balanced offering - biriyanis, pulaos, a variety of rotis, non-veg and vegetarian curries, and of course, kebabs. The food is as authentic as it gets; the chefs are both Pakistani and key ingredients are specifically flown in to ensure the flavours are perfect. The food at Khayaban is prepped at their main Kitchen in Rajagiriya, with final preparations made at the Food Studio. But the naans are freshly made in a tandoor and the kebabs are also grilled on-site. I also went into the kitchen for a peek - Nisal and I had to wear the disposable hair nets - and was impressed by how clean and organised it was.
I tried a few items off their menu, starting off with a refreshing mojito. The mojito was well-balanced without any of the ingredients being overwhelming. It had just the right sweetness too. For starters, I picked the Murgh Malai Boti; boneless chicken marinated with cream, green chillies and herbs and spices, charcoal grilled and served with tamarind sauce. The char from the grill, the marinade and the smoky flavour combined meant that this kebab was an explosion of flavour. My only gripe was that I would have preferred it a lot more if the chicken was juicier and more succulent.
Like a majority of Sri Lankans, I am a huge fan of Biryani, so of course I had to start off with one. I tried the Jheenga Biryani, spice-infused basmati rice combined with fresh lagoon prawns served with gravy and raita. The prawns were perfectly marinated and perfectly cooked. The biryani itself was rich in flavour, and the raita as always was the perfect accompaniment with every bite. The biryani didn't really need the gravy as it was good enough on its own, but it's nice to know it's offered.
It is not often I've ever voluntarily picked a Pulao off a menu, typically since I always opt for the biryani anyway. But the Pulao at Khayaban came highly recommended, so I decided to give it a try, and I was glad I did!! I tried the Murgh Pulao, which consisted of fragrant basmati rice cooked in stock, aromatic spices and herbs served with a marinated quarter chicken. Incredibly aromatic and infused with stock and herbs, the pulao was excellent!! While comparatively simplistic to the rich biryani, I tried the pulao rice on its own (without the raita or gravy) and it still tasted delicious! The chicken was well fried and also subtly flavoured, and paired well with the pulao.
The Butter Naan and Garlic Naan were freshly made in the tandoor on site so they were fresh and tasty! With the naans, I had the Palak Paneer, which is spinach and cottage cheese cooked in a thick gravy. This is another dish I really liked - spicy, with a thick gravy, it worked well with the naans.
The food at Khayaban is flavourful with good portion sizes. Despite being a biryani fan, I have to admit I was won over by the pulao and I definitely recommend you give it a try! Khayaban’s success is already on an upward trajectory and they’re excited to launch more items to their menu - including Beef Brain Masala, Makhni Handi, Seekh Kebab and BBQ Biriyani Sawan. They're also available on Uber Eats and Pick Me. Do note however, that while their tandoori items are available throughout the day at the outlet, they are only available for delivery after 6 pm.
PHOTOS Nisal Baduge