There is not a plethora of Sri Lankan food in New York City, but the best of it is definitely in Staten Island. The community there is enough to have a few restaurants and at least one grocery store focusing on the country. San Rasa is what seems to be a budding little restaurant with a lot of character and warmth.
The room is filled with plenty of Sri Lankan paraphernalia and accented with earth tones and dark woods. The staff is genuinely friendly, and every customer on a slow-ish Friday night seemed to be very comfortable.
A good way to start is with the assorted Sri Lankan appetizers ($7, below), a collection of spring rolls, wade, fish and vegetable cutlets. All of the items is not quite as good as it is up the hill at New Asha, but satisfying nonetheless.
Preparation has a lot to do with every course here, so I include photos of a couple before and after shots. Each dish is placed on its own mat, which double as hot pads and placemats. I ordered the hopper with chicken curry ($11, below 3 photos) and was first presented the curry:
The sauces were scoopable with the hoppers (appam) that are thin pancakes made of fermented rice flour. One has an egg cooked in it for extra protein. For me, hoppers are not as tasty as naan or roti, but always more interesting and photogenic.
Another reason to come here is for the selection of lamprais, a rice dish that is combined with various ingredients, wrapped in a banana leaf, and baked. Here is what it typically looks like fresh from the oven:
We ordered the lamb black curry version ($12), and once opened, looks like this:
The rice and curry are basically mixed together, but the cashews and stew create a really tasty combination. Definitely a unique dish, which also has another fried bite like the appetizers.
When we first walked into the place, we saw a Hofbräu beer sign out front advertising a beer garden. In the mood for a drink after dinner, we followed the sign and corridor (below) to find that this beer garden was actually on the roof of the restaurant and affiliated. You can eat there if you want, or enjoy a beer on the pleasant terrace. On this night, a table was filled with ten or so South Asian men having many rounds of drinks with their enormous banquet.
The path leads to stairs up to the Sri Lankan beer garden.
226 Bay Street, Staten Island, NY