The Sunday Leader

Experience Exceptionality With Dharshan Munidasa

By Tia Goonaratna and Ryan Johnson

Dharshan Munidasa, the name that’s responsible for Nihonbashi, Ministry of Crab, The Tuna and The Crab, Alaxandra and Ward Fashion Café, and Kaema Sutra, is a self-taught chef with a significant vision for Sri Lanka in the culinary industry.

Born in Japan, Dharshan is half Sri Lankan and half Japanese. He spent his childhood in Japan watching his family create wonders in the kitchen. He completed his education in Sri Lanka attending St. Joseph’s College and Wycherley International School, and went on to complete his Double Degree in Computer Engineering and International Relations from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University. He returned to Sri Lanka the moment he graduated with the passing away of his father, and has been in Sri Lanka ever since.

With a love for the Japanese culinary arts, and seeing a real gap in the restaurant industry in Sri Lanka, he first opened Nihonbashi, ‘Japan Bridge’ in 1995 with the aim to introduce Sri Lanka to the true taste of Japanese food, and bridge the gap between the two countries. He opened a branch at ODEL, Alexandra Place in 2001, and then at Hilton Colombo Residencies in 2002.  The branch at ODEL invited people to stop and have lunch while they enjoy their shopping, and added a new twist to shopping in Sri Lanka.

In 2011, Dharshan opened Ministry of Crab with Kumar Sangakkar and Mahela Jayawaradena at the Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct, a unique stop for fresh crab lovers. Growing his dedication to the natural resources Sri Lanka has to offer, he opened Kaema Sutra with Jacqueline Fernandez specialising in contemporary Sri Lankan cuisine at the Arcade Independence Square.

At the beginning, while dealing with the technicalities of obtaining fresh food, Dharshan began to look inwards to find his resources. When he couldn’t import fresh ingredients, he explored further into Sri Lanka’s assets to satisfy his needs. From the Sri Lankan Lagoon Crab, the giant prawn, and finding the perfect spot with a wood oven to make his ‘Kade Paan’, it is evident that Dharshan is forever on the journey to improve the patrons’ experience at his restaurants, and to emphasis on the freshness of the ingredients.

Dharshan believes that if you enjoy your food, then it should mean a bit more than just being a meal. He is always passing on information on from where the food you are eating came from. The type of fish, what’s special about it, and how did it arrive at your plate is the unique experience you can gain from any of his restaurants. On the days when it’s a holiday, he would sometimes take his staff on field trips to know first-hand where the food they prepare come from.  Just as Dharshan learned through experience, he believes it’s important that his staff gain the same knowledge.

With the vision to take the Sri Lankan restaurant industry to new heights, and to give importance to the quality of the food as opposed to churning out just another mediocre dish, Dharshan refused to settle at where he is. Always thinking, always working, he is forever making improvements on his dishes, with the interior of his restaurants, or just about anything that catches his eye. He pays attention to every little detail to make certain that the experience he is creating is not only comfortable, but valuable as well.  He believes that if those in the food industry or entering into the restaurant business could create a unique experience, and introduce distinctive dishes without mimicking existing dishes, then the future of Sri Lanka’s restaurant industry would have no boundaries.

Nihonbashi and Ministry of Crab are both listed at San Pellegrino’s Asia’s Top 50 Restaurants list, and Nihonbashi was awarded the best restaurant in Sri Lanka. He was also awarded the Japanese Ambassador’s Special Commendation by the Japanese Embassy in Sri Lanka in 2012, and was also awarded The Minister’s Award for Overseas Promotion of Japanese Food in 2014 by the Japanese government.




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