Sri Lanka meets Surry Hills at this fragrant new restaurant that thrills every sense.
Hoppers. Fun to say and even more fun to eat, they’re one of the cornerstones of Sri Lankan cuisine. For those unfamiliar, a hopper is a thin, round pancake made of fermented rice flour and coconut milk – sometimes with an egg in the middle – that you tear and fold and fill with curries and sambols.
They’re also the first thing you see when you enter family-run newcomer Kurumba as they’re swirled around a pan behind the bar at a dedicated hopper station. “When we’re in Sri Lanka we always eat hoppers on the street,” says general manager Travin De Hoedt (third from left). “Watching them being made is something we always thought was really cool. We’ve never seen that done in Sydney so we wanted to bring it to people.”
Beyond hoppers, there are many more layers of savoury spice and all things nice to be found at the Surry Hills eatery. The lobster kottu is a signature; a textured topography of vegetables, shellfish and shredded roti slicked with a rich lobster head curry sauce and served in the shell. Chunky green mango curry is garnished with a halo of deep-fried bitter gourd – it was De Hoedt’s favourite of the dishes his grandmother made. And the cocktails transport you to the tropics, too, especially the juicy Rumba Kurumba that sings with Ceylon arrack and apricot.
Don’t neglect to order dessert. Almost everyone in the De Hoedt family has a pastry background and the cakes they served at The Fold, their previous restaurant in Dulwich Hill, were the stuff of legend. Candyfloss pink faluda soft serve looks as though it will taste like a toothache but is in fact a subtle, gently floral, musk dream, dotted with crystallised pistachio, burnt cashew and a macerated cherry.
At the time of writing, Kurumba’s more formal upstairs dining area was still being prepped for customers but even when it opens, the downstairs hopper bar will be where it’s at. A cocktail or two, some handheld snacks and a little theatrical cooking in front of your eyes. That’s our idea of dinner and a show.