Following a couple of other reports (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/701722, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/36557), my friend Susan and I decided to check out new restaurant Kadupul for Sri Lankan food. I was a little apprehensive about going with Susan, who is a culinary professional with a chowhound's spirit and has visited Sri Lanka. I'm not experienced with Sri Lankan food, but I've been in Kerala and was told that the cuisine was very similar to that of Sri Lanka because of geography and trade routes. Anyway, I wasn't really expecting that this random restaurant, the only truly Sri Lankan eatery in the Bay Area, would knock our socks off.
I was wrong.
Located in (of course) a strip mall, Kadupul looks more like a Mediterranean cafe than a South Asian restaurant. The walls are washed in burnt orange, and there's a mix of tall and regular tables, with glass tops over dark wood. When we stopped in at 3:30 pm on a Sunday, there was one family there and the "Sunday brunch" mentioned on the website was nowhere in sight.
As someone had mentioned, the menu is confusing - dinner-only and lunch-only items are scattered throughout the menu, which has a few detached pages. We ordered hoppers (what they call appam in Kerala) with prawn curry; lamprais, described as a Dutch-influenced dish; okra; and roti with fish curry - or so we thought. The menu wording was a bit confusing and we ended up with "slum curry" instead, which turned out to be potatoes masala.
I had been really looking forward to the appam, and they were superb. These are like bowl-shaped crepes of fermented rice batter. The bottoms, where the batter concentrates, were fluffy and tender; the sides grew progressively crisper as you neared the top. We used pieces of it to sop up the prawn curry. The "prawns" themselves were more like medium-small shrimp, negligible in themselves, but the curry sauce was exquisite. We also were served an incredible compote of caramelized onions with star anise.
The okra, covered in a light sauce, was very good. The only low point of our meal was the roti, a pancake-like bread that was way too hard and dry - like coconut-flavored cardboard. The potatoes were good.
Melanie Wong has been asking about the lamprais, so I know I have to describe it! :-) Actually, I was too full from all the rest to even eat a bite of it in the restaurant, so I took my portion to go. It's like a spiced pilaf in a banana-wrapped packet; the vegetarian version contains a couple of breaded croquettes and a blend of meaty and spongy mushrooms. It was definitely yummy, but it's the appam and curry that will motivate me to go back. I'm also intrigued by the "string hopper biryani," which I had never heard of.
Others have criticized the service (the restaurant grew out of a catering operation). I found it to be... odd. One of our servers was incredibly meticulous (it took him five minutes to clean the table), but seemed inexperienced; the other verged on brusque.
Both Susan and I were really happy after lunch that we'd made the trek -- and let me point out that Susan had taken the BART from Oakland, then ridden her bike 4.5 miles to get to the restaurant! But she insisted that it was well worth it.
8939 San Ramon Rd, Dublin, CA 94583