91 1st Avenue
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 614-9333
Hours: 12:30-11pm, 7 days a week
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Cuisine: Sri Lankan
Area: East Village
Payment: Cash only
I don't often think of Sri Lanka and definitely wouldn't have this weekend if I hadn't enjoyed a satisfying meal in the best Sri Lankan restaurant in New York. Sigiri was whispered to me as, 'Michelin recommended' and 'a literal hole in the wall', so naturally I ventured to the edges of alphabet city with an open mind and an empty belly to seek out a small slice of Sri Lanka. Amidst bars and tattoo parlors is the humble yet dignified Sigiri, a tiny peep on a second story in the middle of the block. I climbed the stairs with my BYOB champagne bottle banging at my knees. As I'm lazy I prefer to order drinks in a restaurant, but quite frankly, Sigiri is just not that kind of place.
I think a man just over 6"1' could easily stretch out with his arms above him and lie down across its width with no room to pass. It's that small. Yet the orange walls are bright and adorned with special baskets used for sifting stones out of the rice. It's warm and homey and definitely unpretentious.
As is the food. I had never eaten Sri Lankan food before and I wanted to try as many dishes as possible to gain the flavor of that tiny island south east of India.
We started with the sampler comprised of dhal vade, a lentil patty with spices, Sri Lankan veggie spring rolls, and fish cutlets which looked more like fish balls. Each was mild in flavor and tasted exactly as it seemed it would.
Then came a plethora of dishes that made for a beautiful feast. My friends and I passed plates of tender beef curry, lentil curry made with plenty of coconut milk, and chicken curry. Instead of rice with our curry we received a platter of string hopper, which is white rice noodle flattened like edible toupees. I loved them. Strangely enough, the green bean dish was my favorite, bursting with spice and flavor. Sri Lankans are unafraid of spice, as well as coconut milk, which was served in a separate dish for ladling over the string hopper Kothu- a pile of string hopper, rice, veggies, and chicken. I thoroughly enjoyed the aappa, which are 'water-thin' pancakes, like crepes, yet bowl shaped. One of ours was filled with a pretty fried egg. They came in a large, weaved basket much to my delight.
When our finally check came, we were baffled over the total. 6 of us ate our hearts content for a mere $20 a person, including a 30% tip!
The overall experience of Sigiri reminded me of being a normal human, eating simple yet delicious foods with my friends in a restaurant that I imagine looks pretty much the same here as many in Sri Lanka. Authentic is an understatement. Cash only here, by the way, of which I am somehow very unsurprised.
Review By: Rachel Sult