Chef Nihal, known as the South’s spicy sorcerer, conjures up new dishes, always with a trend setting panache that reflects not only the regular clientele’s requests, but also the ever changing interests of today’s global traveller. In May he is adding some new dishes to his restaurant menu, which are inspired from garnering the desires of his guests over the last year as it seems they want more healthy salad items spiced up and vegetarian dishes with a fine dining twist. Nihal explains, with his sketches and food tasting notes, that “I came up with a delicious and yet simple idea of using vegetables such as aubergine cooked three different ways, and with salads I am adding marinated prawns that go perfectly with gotkola salad, creating a great fusion of eastern and western cuisine”. Also he uses whole baked fish as people like to enjoy their fare straight from the ocean that forms the main view from the restaurant. So literally using the catch of the day, fresh off the line, to hook fish lovers in, to experience his casual fine dining. Nihal is also adding more desserts and these he is keeping under wraps as they are saucy secret recipes and he wants something to be a surprise in the exciting new Vesak line up.
Currently he admits that the most popular dishes are his seafood fettuccine and prawn tempura, followed by baked banana with caramel ice cream and nuts. People it seems love the set dinners at Nihals, as they are very different from other restaurants in the area due to the tea infusions used throughout the menu. They also change daily and reflect the seasonal fruits and vegetables available. “We use tea infusion as it changes the taste and gives one a different experience when eating the fish or meat dishes. Possibly it keeps you looking younger and has medicinal benefits, but this is not why my team and I cook with it.” Nihal says that over his 18 years at Jetwing Lighthouse he has found people are eating more and more spicy food and yet you have to balance it with the other tastes and only then is it a good combination. “I like using local spices like cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, gingering, currying leaves and lemon grass, some of which we grow at our property, Kurulubedda. He says if you take one spice home it should be cinnamon as it is the best in the world and reduces your blood sugar levels. You can smoke dishes with it, make naughty desserts that are less fattening, and enjoy it in its powder form on your curd at breakfast time.
Nihal’s Restaurant is unique, not only due to the food and character behind it, but also the azure pool setting, the perfect spot to work off any excesses after eating and then there are also the spa treatment rooms next door, for a bit of pampering between courses for early diners and with the wind always channelling through the central area, it is a pleasant place to be, even on the hottest day of the year. Nihal says, “We like taking care of people and making sure they always leave with a smile.” I ask him if women fall in love with his saucy spicy food dishes and try to persuade him to run off with them. He laughs and says “I never get that close to my customers,” and he certainly isn’t dishing it up if he does!