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8 Restaurants That Grew Up With Us (YAMU Turns 9!)

Happy 9th birthday to us!

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First of all, a very happy birthday to us! YAMU turns 9 today!

A Brief History

Back in 2012, YAMU was just a team of 3 - Indi Samarajiva, Janith Leanage and Savan Wijewardene, and they operated from Indi's apartment in Dehiwala. Later on, Shruthi Mathews and Inosh Perera joined the squad, and as the team grew with many awesome people, they moved to a proper office space in Bambalapitiya.
We were there from 2014 to 2018, and with the initiation of PickMe Food in 2018, we've been functioning under the wing of PickMe HQ in Nugegoda. 
From 2012 to now, we've hit many peaks and valleys, while experimenting on different strategies and angles, to change ourselves for the better. From a website to an app to a video-based content channel and a magazine, YAMU has branched out quite a bit over the years. 
 
At the same time, we've watched our beloved city of Colombo thrives with new skyscrapers, shopping malls, urban parks, fascinating eateries and hotels. 
 
There are many restaurants around town that we've grown up with. Started out small, pretty much around the same time as us, now they're the biggest players in the scene. With consistent hard work, commitment and enthusiasm towards what they do, it truly has been the most rewarding experience for us to see them succeed.

So on our 9th birthday, we thought of dedicating a piece, just for them. Here are 8 restaurants in Colombo that we've had the privilege of growing up with. 

Giovanni's

Just 6 years ago, Giovanni's was a simple, small streetside pizzeria down Thimbirigasyaya Road. Back then, it was more of a one-man show, with Dimuthu making pizzas in a clay oven right there next to your table.  

And now, they have a spacious room next door, a cosy, al-fresco bistro (Cafe Rafaella) at the back of the restaurant, and another branch (Gio's Al Fresco) in Colombo 03. They also run a weekend brunch session every now and then, with the help of The Travelling Bruncher.

The team is bigger, and so is the menu. Lots and lots of incredible pizzas, pasta, coffee, juices and desserts to choose from. Plus, it's BYOB.

Despite the many new pizzerias in town, Giovanni's remains undefeated. Throughout the past 6 years, we've made numerous stops at Giovanni's - as a team and with our friends and family. It's one of those places that you'd find a reason to visit every day and recommend to everyone you know.

Because, Giovanni's is not just about soul-warming food or friendly service, it's a feeling. We all have had so many great memories here - getting to know new people, saying goodbye to some, catching up with the bunch, date nights, or simply celebrating the fact that we survived another week.

Oshella Homemade Goodness

This is the first of many eclair batches we've ordered from Oshella. We discovered them 5 years ago, and it was love at first bite. 

A home baker specialised in chocolaty desserts and savouries, Oshella has always wowed us. We're always on the hunt for more good eclairs, and Oshella's eclairs are still one of the best we've had in the city, despite the massive throng of home bakers and bakeries that have emerged in the recent couple of years.

Aside from the sweets, they also do a range of tasty rice varieties now - like Yellow Rice and Kabsa. Now they're on a number of mobile delivery platforms so these legendary goodies are just a few taps away.

Bakes By Bella

We first stepped into Bakes By Bella (or Coco Bella, as it was known back then) 5 years ago, when they were just a petite dessert parlour inside Liberty Arcade. We were instantly charmed by their pretty little cake jars, refreshing cake shakes, crinkle cookies, brownies, and many other sweet treats.

BBB is now a full-blown delicatessen in the city. They've come a very long way since its inception, to establish a glamorous, quaint cafe in Colpetty, and a growing loyal fan base that pushes them towards success, every step of the way.

The owner, Melissa lends her expert eye and touch to every single dish that comes out of the kitchen. Evidently, that dedication and passion are what make BBB's story absolutely inspiring and empowering. 

Aside from the cakey goodness, jar of delicious and gooey sensations, it's an excellent choice for brunch, lunch, dinner, coffee and a whole lot more. For some, it's a platform for creativity, all thanks to the successful open-mic sessions and many other events they host. Some find their peace of mind here, with a book, a good cup of coffee, a slice of cake, or simply a laptop, so they can get some work done. Many celebrate their special occasions here - birthdays, anniversaries and bridal showers etc., while the rest step in to satiate their sweet tooth cravings. 

Ministry Of Crab

"YAMU deems this the best restaurant in Colombo - a bold claim made by Indi, on his review 8 years ago, and it's still valid. Ministry of Crab sources fresh, fat, export-quality mud crab harvested from local lagoons, adds their in-house blends of spices and other ingredients, and whips up some of the richest crab dishes in Colombo. Coupled with the grandeur interior and great service, this venture by Chef Dharshan Munidasa, cricketing stars Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara is one of Sri Lanka's best shots at fine dining.

Listed among Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants every year since 2015, the Ministry of Crab has been expanding access to these enormous crustacean delights at a global level. Right now, they have branches in Shanghai, Manila, Mumbai, Maldives and Bangkok.

Chef Dharshan Munidasa and his team are quite innovative and keen to conduct experiments in the kitchen. The most recent, delicious invention that came out of them would be the Crab Biriyani. It, in fact, is the one and only crab biriyani in Colombo, and perhaps in the entire country. 

Isso

Started off as a humble food joint down Sulaiman Terrace, Isso has been dealing with isso, ever since we came across them in 2016. They're the prawn-hub in the city, even to this day, but also have moved to bigger leagues with a growing menu and a spacious, gorgeous restaurant in Colpetty. 

Isso's current menu is very much focused on isso, but also extends to a range of other seafood delicacies like lobster, crab, cuttlefish, barramundi and octopus, as well as a few vegetarian options. Along with the previous concise menu with value meals (carb + salad + prawns cooked to your taste, check the video above), they've introduced many seafood-based dishes, like Prawn Burgers, Prawn Wraps, Prawn Nasi goreng, Prawn Kottu, Lobster Biriyani, Fish & Chips, Laksa and many more.

It's quite amazing how they've grown as a brand by exploring many avenues, and succeeding them, all while without losing their focus on the core element - isso

Kopi Kade

In the beginning, Kopi Kade was all about excellent coffee and modern finger foods - sliders and bites. There are many cafes in town, but it's the very first of its kind that has given us full satisfaction, since day one.

The good ol' dainty treats are still there, and they're now pulling off many unique, interesting cakes, bakes and mains, while brewing up the best coffee in Colombo. Kopi Kade excels at adding elegant touches to any ordinary dish. Take this Savoury French Toast for example. It sounds simple, but really, it's not. So much thought and effort have been put into this dish, from selecting the ingredients, choosing the suitable flavour elements, cooking them properly, and assorting everything on a plate. In here, it's an exciting combination of local bread, soaked in milk and toasted to perfection and served with pol sambolseeni sambol, chopped up veggies, crumbled up paneer, prawn gravy and bacon.

Pretty much every dish that leaves their kitchen is made by Nimeshan, the owner himself, while his wife Rachi overlooks the rest of the operations. The exquisite flavours, spectacular coffee, and the personalised touch added by the owners, have made this place a go-to coffee house for many. 

Baguette French Bakery

We recognised Baguette in 2017, when they were only a gourmet bakery that serves up proper French bread and pastries at the House of Wines, along with imported pasta, meats, and cheeses. So imagine how happy we were when we found out that they're going to have their very own cafe!

After just 1 year after our review, they moved out of House of Wines and settled down Havelock Road. Eventually, they resettled in Mount Lavinia and opened a new branch on Queen's Road in Bambalapitiya very recently. We're yet to review the latter. 

With an impressive collection of handmade, freshly baked loaves, pastries, buns and many other baked goods, Nathalie Pujolle, the owner of Baguette, has succeeded in bringing a taste of France to Colombo. It's one of those artisan bakers in town that we look to with reliance, as they always ensure the highest quality and authenticity. 

Personally, I really enjoy visiting the Mount Lavinia branch. Despite being located at the edge of noisy Galle Road, it's still a place that lets me relax with a hot cup of Belgium Chocolate, and a crispy, flaky, well-puffed up Croissant. And if Nathalie is there, she makes great company and very helpful in choosing the best items to fit your mood. 

Praneetha

Praneetha was only a hole in the wall back then. We did our initial review 6 years ago, and it's still the number 1 choice for rice and curry in our book. The massive spread of meats and seafood cooked in different ways is the biggest highlight here, and as the name promises, they're truly flavourful. 

Praneetha now owns a two-floored establishment, just a few meters from the original location. The showcase full of tasty rice and curries lies on the ground floor, along with a few tables and chairs for you to dine in, while the upper floor has more of that. They offer up generous portions as usual, but for slightly high prices than before. 

Our best memories here includes a seafood-packed fried rice, some fiery crab curry, great pork stew, and a more. 

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