“Let’s go to that Sri Lankan restaurant!” is probably a phrase you will never hear in New York. First of all, I’m not even sure if Sri Lankan restaurants exist in Manhattan. And even if they did, would they get the same level of attention or press that a vegan or pizza restaurant would? London, however, is more accepting of different cuisines than we are, which explains the success and popularity of Hoppers, a Sri Lankan restaurant in Soho.
We should be more open minded and pull ourselves away from our safety net of burgers and grain bowls, because there’s a lot to like about Sri Lankan food. Similar to its South Asian neighbors, curried meats and veggies are staples in a meal, accompanied by some bread or rice. The carb of choice here is the namesake hopper, which is a coconut milk and rice flour batter that gets cooked into a pancake bowl with crisp edges and a soft fluffy core. You can either get it plain or cooked with an over easy egg in the middle, which then allows for the yolk to serve as a second sauce to your curry or “kari”. If you prefer roti bread or rice, you can order that as well. Whatever you choose, it will be a great canvas for your tasty and flavorful meats and sauces.
The express lunch deal, in which you get a mutton roll appetizer, a lamb rothu kari, a hopper or dosa, a choice of kari and either a chutney or sambol dipping sauce, is a great way of trying a little bit of everything that Hoppers has to offer. The hot butter deviled shrimp isn’t included, and since it’s one of the best dishes on the menu, you’ll have to pay extra for it, which you won’t mind doing at all. (Note it’s also very spicy!) The bone marrow is also touted as one of the bests, although I think our waiter oversold it as you could barely taste the bone marrow in the sea of sauce, and it was in general overkill as an addition to our lunch feast. I have nothing but praise for the hopper, the kari and the shrimp, but even the lamb rothu kari, which tasted like a more salad-y version of pad see ew, was a sleeper hit.
The wait for this type of adventurous and appealing food is understandably long, and Hoppers doesn’t take reservations. Try to come during an off hour, where the hostess will quote you an hour wait time but the actual turnaround will be 30-40 minutes. And since they text you once you table is ready you could technically grab a drink and snack somewhere else to hold you over. You can’t get food like this in the States, so it’s definitely worth the wait.
49 Frith St, Soho
London W1D 4SG, UK