Pearl of the Ocean serves well-seasoned Sri Lankan cuisine
Sri Lanka, the Resplendent Island, has been called “The Pearl of the Indian Ocean.” With miles of coastline, it is home to coconut palms, fruit trees, rice paddies, and true cinnamon. Using ingredients such as these, Pearl of the Ocean brings healthy Sri Lankan cuisine to Water Street.
This new restaurant moved into the space previously occupied by Sri. Glass-covered tablecloths bear colorful hand-appliquéd elephants, and green plants and cut flowers dot the room. Framed tourism posters hang from walls, including a photograph of Sigiriya, a monstrous magma rock jutting 600 feet above the lush plain, topped with remains of an
The mid-day menu, which quickly accommodates short lunch hours, features entrées with two, three or four items ($8.50, $10.50, and $12.50). All are vegan except for Chicken Curry (add $2).
I sipped a custard-colored Mango Lassi ($3.50), a slightly sweet blend of yogurt and mango pulp. Its soothing dairy base would tame the spicy meal that would follow.
Soon, the cumin-scented combination platter arrived. Mangos topped with sliced almonds were stewed in a sweet sauce with onions until soft like warm chutney. The spicy potatoes dotted with black mustard seeds were delightfully fiery, seasoned with chilies and spices. Tender, skinless curried chicken thigh was cooked with savory aromatics.
Liberal use of turmeric gave the spicy legume dhal and piquant long grains of tender ginger rice a bright buttercup yellow hue. The topping of salty shredded carrot salad bestowed its own snappy bite. I dipped the cumin-studded pappadam, which is like a tortilla, but made of lentil flour, paper-thin, and crisp, into the sweet and sour tamarind condiment.
The dinner menu is expansive. Seasonal fish is topped with coconut sauce, chicken is cooked with spiced cream in Chicken Tikka Masala, and lamb with roasted curry powder is bathed in an almond-based sauce. Noteworthy also, the giant jackfruit, indigenous to Sri Lanka, is simmered with spices, while attractively-shaped lotus root is cooked with coconut milk.
Pearl of the Ocean, 736 Water St., Santa Cruz, 457-2350. Serving lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Mondays. Visit www.srirestaurant.com