Chills and thrills for supper! | Daily News

Chills and thrills for supper!

The entrance to Asylum Restaurant
The entrance to Asylum Restaurant

Naserah Tyebally, the founder of the Colombo Supper Club, has always loved food. Every time she travels abroad, the first thing she does is scout out a city’s interesting restaurants, upscale food trucks, and famous marketplaces. Tourist attractions are often secondary to delicious delights.

And while she isn’t overly critical of Colombo’s food scene, she has kept track of international food trends, especially that of the “supper club,” a fast growing craze in international culinary capitals. These clubs differ in style and purpose, but many function as one-night pop-ups in unusual locations that feature the fare of prominent chefs. They tend to skew fancy, but there are some that feature everyday foods as well.

Many of Tyebally’s friends in foodie havens across the world had told her about this phenomenon, and she began thinking about trying to bring a similar dining experience to Colombo.

Naserah Tyebally and Chef Sun Kim

There was little movement on the plan until last August, when she ate at Singapore’s Cheek by Jowl, a hot table serving modern Australian fare, owned and operated by Sri Lankan chef Rishi Naleendra. After a lovely meal, Tyebally asked to speak with the chef.

“I just wanted to say thank you and that my friend and I had had such a great time. But we started talking, and he turned out to be a lovely, personable fellow, and my friend said that the two of us should take each other’s numbers down. He even told Rishi that I would have him come cook in Sri Lanka,” she said.

Nothing came of this meeting until Tyebally, back in Colombo, decided to contact Naleendra about actually cooking here if she organized it. He responded with a resounding “yes,” and the Colombo Supper Club was born.

“I started looking into how I could put it together, and I made it happen. It was a right place-right time situation, but it was fueled by a love for tasty food and interesting eating experiences,” she said.

Operating by herself, Tyebally has now held three separate one-night events featuring prominent chefs based in Singapore. The inaugural dinner was held in November at Rock Villa, Bentota, and starred Naleendra’s cooking. The second one took place in February at Semondu at the Dutch Hospital. Andrew Walsh, the Irish chef-owner of Singapore’s Cure, was the featured chef at the second event.

Because the chefs do all the cooking on these occasions seating is limited, and the events thus far have been limited to just over 30 diners.

“The dinners are small because my chefs actually do the cooking. It’s as if you are in their restaurant, wherever that may be,” she said.

Furthermore, the dinners have featured tasting menus with wine pairings that bring an upscale, modern eating experience to the Colombo food scene.

“The aim of my project is to bring a bit of pop and variety to the dining scene here in Colombo. The project will certainly continue to evolve, but no matter what it will showcase food in all its forms and glory,” Tyebally said.

The club’s third supper took place on Sunday, March 19 at the Independence Arcade’s Asylum Restaurant. The featured chef was Sun Kim, the chef-owner of Meta, who cooks up French-inspired food with a Korean twist.

Born in South Korea, Sun trained at Waku Ghin in Singapore and Tetsuya’s in Sydney, Australia. This was his first visit to Sri Lanka, and he brought his whole bag of tricks in order to cook up a memorable meal for 34 lucky diners at Asylum.

The menu featured Hokkaido scallop sashimi with yuzu, apple, and basil, butternut squash with prawns and asparagus, smoked quail with mushrooms and potatoes, and a New Zealand lamb loin with parsnip and kale, among other treats.

“It’s very fun for me to come down to Sri Lanka and cook something new for people here. I like to showcase what I’m working on in different places,” Sun said.

Asylum was closed to the public in order to accommodate the event, but the restaurant looked lovely: long tables featured place settings with several wine glasses, delicately folded napkins, and a smattering of flower petals.

While the chefs do all the cooking, Tyebally is responsible for securing and decorating the venues as well as providing the wine. She does, however, have beverage sponsors who help her out.

“It’s a ton of work to put these dinners together, but it’s definitely worth it. These chefs are so amazing. They really are artists serving up delicious, creative foods. Delivering that experience to Colombo makes this all worth it,” she added.

Her efforts seem to be paying off, as there were seventeen people on the waiting list for Walsh’s dinner and ten on the waiting list for Sun’s.

Though the first three dinners have been rather upmarket, Tyebally noted that she plans to hold some events that are less expensive and open to more people. Her next dinner will be at Café Kumbuk and will feature the cooking of Karishma Sakhrani, an Indian chef who specializes in innovative vegetarian fare.

She is also in touch with chefs from Thailand and others from Singapore to keep the food coming. Currently, Tyebally plans on holding Colombo Supper Club meetings once a month or every six weeks.

“I don’t want to confine myself to the fancy, upscale wine paring degustation menus. I’ll have a little of this, a little of that as I move forward with the project,” she said.

“Each event sort of guides me to where I should go or what I should do next. On one hand it’s great to have a vision, and I do think about where I want to go with the Supper Club. But on the other hand I don’t want to limit the possibilities in any way because you never know how it will eventually pan out,” she added.

Pictures by Shan Rambukwella

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