It is quite a bold, and admirable, move to think you can bring workaday street food from Sri Lanka to an expensive street of the Lower East Side. So far though from the look of things, it might just catch on here, as the place had a pretty steady stream of well-dressed mid-afternoon artsy types. A couple beers are on draft, a couple more bottled and canned, and the place has some stick around appeal.
Kottu is widely available on the south Asian island nation, I often sat down for a quick plate when I did not feel my most adventurous or when I was exceptionally hungry, always satisfied by the hot greasy mound presented. The dish is made up primarily of Sri Lankan roti called gothamba, chopped up (the literal meaning of kottu) and mixed with ingredients. On a Sri Lankan corner, you will be able to pick and choose exactly how much of each ingredient you want, a little more egg, a lot more chili, etc. At a restaurant, like here in the Lower East Side, you get a few options and the house decides the mixture besides giving you the option of mild, medium or spicy.
At those street merchants, the proprietor will fold together a few sheets of the day's paper and plop your feast inside. Here they make a fun reference to this with their wax paper prints of retro shipping/sailing ads. Besides a selection of seven styles of kottu, they also have a brief list of sides including the fish cutlets below. These two balls of salmon, vegetable and spice are deep fried and make up a half-size order given with the lunch special.
It is fun (and essential) to purchase the three sambols they have available here. Generally you would just have these on the cart to add, but at $1 each, it is not such a racket. In the photo below starting from the left, you see minchi (green chili, mint, and coconut), pol (chili powder, lime, black pepper, and coconut), and lunu (red onion, lime, tomato, chili). The spiciness is easily decoded by the colors.
The small order is not quite as large and filling as at midnight in Colombo, but trying to transplant my mind is almost successful. I do enjoy this little place and want to give it credit. Crispy prawn kottu ($9, below) comes with two whole pieces, and some smaller chopped up meat within a curry mix. For the beginner, the most traditional is probably the classic chicken ($7, above right), which is also the easiest to manipulate with the sambols.
If you have ever been to Sri Lanka, you have enjoyed kottu. Bringing back good memories is now available in the Lower East Side, and even if you have never had the good fortune, now the dish is easily accessible.