An ode to Sri Lanka: India’s very own Ministry of Crab will offer simple food, cooked well
Have you always wanted to try the world-famous Ministry of Crab but could not afford a Sri Lankan holiday? Well, don’t get crabby, because Mumbai now has the restaurant as well.
Ministry of Crab, the world-famous seafood restaurant in Colombo specialising in succulent crabs, is in India now. The first-ever outlet brought by Gourmet Investments Pvt Ltd (GIPL) is the brainchild of celebrated chef and restaurateur Dharshan Munidasa in partnership with Sri Lankan cricket legends Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. It has been placed for three consecutive years in the list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and has hosted some of the most renowned personalities in the world. And now, Ministry of Crab becomes the newest entrant in India’s restaurant market by joining hands with Gourmet Investments Pvt. Ltd.
YS Weekender caught up with Ramit Bharti Mittal, CEO of GIPL in an email interaction to find out about the unique menu of Ministry of Crab and the food trends in the world today.
YS Weekender: Can you tell us about the Ministry of Crab and how it was launched? What is its specialty and why is it so popular in Colombo?
Ramit Bharti Mittal: The Ministry of Crab was launched in December 2011 in Colombo. It serves Sri Lanka’s Lagoon crabs, which are known to be the best in the world. They are not only bigger than average crabs but also have both claws intact. We employ a daring no-freezer policy and are committed to serving the freshest crabs to all our patrons.
YSW: What will be different in India?
RBM: The Ministry of Crab Mumbai promises to offer its loyalists not only the long-standing favourites from the Sri Lankan menu but also an elaborate luxurious bar offering. A brand-new nibbles menu for the bar at The Ministry of Crab has also been curated by Chef Munidasa for those who are looking for just that experience.
YSW: Can you tell us about yourself?
RM: I have over 17 years of experience in varied industries both within and outside the group. I am also the co-founder of Bulldog Entertainment, a media production and format licensing company. And, I am a foodie too.
YSW: Why did the two cricketers decide to launch this restaurant, and what was its USP at the time?
RM: The best of Sri Lanka’s Lagoon crabs, commonly held to be the best crabs in the world, have for decades been more easily available internationally than in Sri Lanka itself. It was an interest in rectifying this situation, among other things, which brought Dharshan, Mahela and Kumar together to form The Ministry of Crab. The three co-owners agree that The Ministry of Crab is intended as an ode to Sri Lanka, as the quality of the produce served at the restaurant reflects the bounty of the island. They have launched restaurants in three international markets - China, the Philippines and Japan.
YSW: Why is this restaurant so popular?
RM: The restaurant focuses on simple food, cooked well. We always use fresh ingredients and have strived to remain consistent over the years. While most restaurants try to substitute home food, we believe that Ministry of Crab feeds the soul, not the stomach.
YSW: How will you adapt your restaurant to suit the vegetarians?
RM: We are using the existing menu from Sri Lanka; no recipes have been altered. We have added a few vegetarian dishes such as Mangalorean Ghassi, Kerala Isshtu, Goan Curry, etc
YSW: What are some of the most popular dishes of MoC?
RM: While curry dishes like crab curry, our Clay Pot Prawn Curry and chicken curry rice are all excellent, it is the Pol Sambol, which is made on order, and the Kade Bread which is a perfect accompaniment for any of the crab dishes, that have gained a lot of popularity.
YSW: Who are the chefs behind the Indian restaurants?
RM: Our in-house culinary head Jerry Thomas is leading the kitchen. He has also developed menus for our other restaurants like The Runway Project, The Bandra Project, The Poona Project and The Market Project.
The restaurant management team including chefs went through an intense training programme in Colombo for over three weeks. Chef Darshan Munidasa had numerous interactive sessions enlightening the team about his culinary history, wisdom, and educating them about Ministry of Crab’s overall ethos and philosophy. Teams were given a deep understanding of crab sourcing, sorting and selection.
YSW: Can you tell us about celebrated chef and restaurateur Dharshan Munidasa?
RM: Dharshan Munidasa is Sri Lanka’s most renowned chef-restaurateur, best known for having founded Nihonbashi, Ministry of Crab, and Kaema Sutra, some of Sri Lanka’s most successful restaurants. Having gained a reputation for his out-of-the-box thinking and his knack for pushing boundaries, Dharshan revolutionised Sri Lanka’s gastronomic landscape, and his restaurants have put Sri Lanka on the global culinary map.
YSW: Which are the other cities that you plan to open in the months to come? Is Bengaluru on the cards?
RM: We are definitely looking at Bengaluru as a market, but right now, we are focussing on Mumbai.
YSW: Where are the crabs sourced from?
RM: We will source the best crabs from the coast of India.
YSW: What is your opinion on the current food scene in the country?
RM: As an individual I believe in classic quality food and service. The F&B industry in India is still unorganised but there has been a significant evolution in terms of ingredients and pedigree talent in India. We believe there is great future, and we are striving to be a part of this thriving industry.
YSW: What would you say are the new and evolving tastes among Indian foodies?
RM: We are going back to the roots, and consuming local produce and millets. Fermentation has been used for centuries, but restaurants are accepting it now. Food with minimal carbon footprint is also gaining popularity.
YSW: In your opinion, which is the hardest cuisine to master, and why?
RM: Japanese cuisine is very ingredient based, making it tough to master. It’s extremely challenging to get the right ingredients and treat and use them right.
YSW: With health being such an important factor of life today, how are restaurants changing with the times?
RM: We believe in offering a variety to individuals. Most of the restaurants have solutions for all dietary requirements. Even our healthy options are presented with quality ingredients and great taste.
YSW: What is your future with Ministry of Crab in terms of development of food and cuisines?
RM: Considering India is a tricky market, we have added a few vegetarian options to the menu. Sri Lankan curries are close to the Indian palate; hence Indians will enjoy this cuisine. When it comes to development, if anything is introduced in the Sri Lankan menu it will be adapted here as well.