There will now be one less reason to travel to Colombo, Sri Lanka, as one of its most recognizable tourist spots, the seafood restaurant Ministry of Crab (MoC), will open an outlet in Mumbai at a yet undisclosed location sometime in the middle of the year to coincide with the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The reason is obvious—besides its crabs and chef Dharshan Munidasa, one of the eatery’s main attractions are its two other owners, cricketers Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. Sri Lanka’s former team captains, who are known to hang at the MoC bar and leave autographed messages for people celebrating special occasions at the restaurant, would like to use the opportunity of the IPL, which they no longer play in, to promote their brand.
At the opening announcement in Mumbai on 4 January, the MoC’s local partners, Gourmet Investments Pvt Ltd, signed on the deal papers with Munidasa and Jayawardene, while revealing that the restaurant will open in May-June.
The six-year-old establishment, which frequently features among Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants (at No.29 in 2017), is known for sourcing all its ingredients locally and for its disdain for frozen food. They plan to do the same here—find crabs in and around Mumbai’s coast and lagoons. “The crab has to be alive—you can’t cook a dead crab, you can’t thaw a frozen crab," Munidasa says.
In a city that has its share of Konkani and specialty restaurants, proud of their expertise with seafood, MoC will compete and challenge with its distinct flavours. Munidasa is clear he will not adapt his menu to Mumbai, except to maybe add a few vegetarian varieties as per demand. MoC in Mumbai, like it was in Colombo, may start only with dinner, with lunch added on as a service later. From a business point of view, Munidasa says, crabs are expensive. “We are not serving a thousand people at $10 (around Rs640) a head. We are $55 a person right now, serving 400 guests without being a fast food restaurant."
The Ministry of Crab plans to open in Delhi as well, but before that, they may start in Bangkok in the middle of the year, at the Shangri-La in Manila next year, plus possibly in Dubai.