Tucked into the lower levels of Cinnamon Grand in Colombo, is a restaurant that promises to satisfy your craving for noodles. If, like me, you can’t go more than two weeks without Asian food – then Noodles is a welcome sight indeed. There’s not a huge amount of South East Asian food in Colombo, and it comes pretty highly recommended by the expats around town.
Walking in, we’re greeted with a display of all the varieties they have on offer, it’s a good selection and I have to admit that for the first time in a while, i’m getting excited for dinner.
Like any of the good hotel restaurants, the place is air-conditioned. There’s an pseudo-open kitchen on display, I say pseudo because although all the produce is on display here, it appears that most of the cooking is done out the back.
The tables are well spaced and there’s a lot of room for diners to sit without feeling too cramped in.
The menu is quite extensive; there’s a lot to choose from – appetisers, salads, noodle soups, fried noodles, desserts. It covers a lot of regional cuisine from Malaysia/Singapore, China and Thailand, with most of the menu items being Vietnamese (no surprise as that’s what the head chef is from) and Japanese.
To make it easier, the waiters come around with a little tablet that has pictures of every dish on the menu. It’s a nice touch I think, especially in Sri Lanka when you really never know how authentic the food you’re about to get is.
We’ve been craving fried noodles, so we settle on two from the list and a Thai salad, partly because I haven’t seen fresh veggies in a while and partly because I think that these seemingly simple dishes can really set good restaurant apart from an average one.
The green mango salad (Rs 350) is smaller than I expected, but I guess it is pretty cheap. I had requested it without anchovies, because in the photo it looked like they served it with western style anchovies (yuck!) rather than the Asian style crispy fried ikan bilis. It’s missing coriander as well, something that the menu promised would be on there. It’s fresh and zesty from the lime juice but lacks depth. I suspect that because I requested for no anchovies, they’ve omitted to use fish sauce in the dressing as well.
Next comes our kung pao chicken with egg noodles (Rs650). It looks exactly like the picture on the tablet. Unfortunately, it’s not great. The egg noodles are slightly soggy, almost overcooked and for some bizarre reason there’s huge chunks of celery in the stir fry. It’s not bad, it’s just generic food court type Asian food.
Lastly we get fried udon noodles (Rs 650). This time they’ve forgotten the bean sprouts and like the above dish, the noodles are on the soggy side, the dish is under seasoned and as a whole, very underwhelming. The chicken’s great though – perfectly cooked and very tender.
As a whole, I’m pretty disappointed in the whole Noodles experience so we decide to skip dessert. A few days later, after telling a friend about our disappointing experience she tells us that she just went recently and maybe we ordered badly. Having grown up on Chinese food, I really want to like this place – it’s pretty reasonably priced, and really how hard is it to cook noodles? We decide to give it another go. We’re told to opt for more of the small appetisers because that’s what they do well.
Reasoning that perhaps because the head chef is Vietnamese, we should opt for something more familiar to him, I have a look at the Pho.
It certainly doesn’t look like any pho I’ve had in Vietnam or Australia and that chunk of mystery beef there looks pretty unappetising, so I decide to pass. There’s no chicken pho to opt for either. Well, there’s that plan out the window.
We order Vietnamese shrimp rice paper rolls and they’re pretty good. My only gripe is that at Rs 850 (AU$8.50), it’s pretty expensive for one and a half rice paper rolls. Seriously, I could buy them cheaper than that in Melbourne.
Thank goodness for the crispy lobster ravioli (Rs 950). It’s not lobster, per se, it’s really a local cray fish of some kind – which is fine, it’s delicious, properly seasoned and the first thing we’ve had that’s actually been good. The crispy skin is properly cooked, blistering and bubbly. It’s pretty expensive, but it’s good.
Are these what you typically think of as gyoza? I didn’t think so. They’re alright – just the usual generic steamed dumplings. There’s a bit of a theme here… I’d write more but they’re not really worth writing about. Cost Rs 450.
Lastly I get a small seafood udon noodle soup (Rs 650) which promises ‘prawns, crab stick, calamari and clams in a Korean style spicy broth’. Surprise, surprise there’s no crab stick, no calamari, no clams. The broth tastes like a watered down prawn mee and the noodles lacks the delicious springy texture of real udon. I’m just glad I ordered a small.
On the all important G vs GFC index (good or just good for Colombo), it’s kind of neither. I really hate writing bad reviews because usually sometimes it’s just a case of a something going wrong that one time. I can understand that. But we’ve gone twice now and the food is really iffy. As a whole, the menu is high on variety and low on authenticity. It’s generic Asian – get some noodles, get some veggies, toss it in some sort of soy sauce type Asian. It’s not good and I honestly think Colombo can do better.
I get it, it’s hard to get good produce here. Imported items are taxed at 105%. It’s not easy to put together an authentic meal, but if you’re going to try maybe narrow down the menu a little. And stop forgetting ingredients in dishes.
For all my gripes about the food, service is good. They whisk away plates and reset your cutlery. Some of the appetisers are expensive, but the noodle dishes are pretty cheap for hotel dining and the ambience is good. But’s still not enough to make me want to return.
Cinnamon Grand, Colombo
+94 11 2 437437
Open 7 days a week
All opinions are my own. I went to this restaurant and paid for food myself, unless otherwise stated.