Every time we stop in, we wonder: Where are the crowds? The lack of a liquor license (supposedly on the way) may be a turnoff, but the cooking—sometimes spicy, sometimes pungent, always complex—is strong enough to overcome that minor blip. (Plus you can always bring your own beer or wine.) Don’t miss the black-pork curry, which gets its deep color and flavor from goraka, a fruit dried in smoke and ground into a paste. Or the lampri, a meal in a banana leaf that unfolds to reveal caramelized onions, cashew curry, plantains, a fried fish ball, hard-cooked egg, and—that’s not all—a choice of protein (chicken, lamb, and pork are all fabulous). Get a bit of everything on your fork to experience full-on the layers of flavor.
Cuisine: Sri Lankan
Where you can find it: 5014 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-506-7554
Also good: Hoppers, cup-shaped rice-flour pancakes with fried egg and katta sambol, a spicy chili paste; chopped roti stir-fried with eggs and a choice of meat or vegetables; deviled lamb or chicken with chilies, onions, peppers, and tomato; string hoppers, fine strands of rice noodles with coconut-onion gravy.