Is a permanent Ministry of Crab coming to Dubai? Dharshan Munidasa hopes to open 'soon'

The chef on what to expect from the pop-up coming soon to Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort and what makes Sri Lankan crab so special

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If you have visited Sri Lanka, it’s very likely that you travelled in and out of Colombo, and it’s probable that a trip to Ministry of Crab, the legendary seafood restaurant in the capital’s Old Dutch Hospital, was on your itinerary.

The restaurant is the brainchild of Sri Lankan chef and restaurateur Dharshan Munidasa, and former Sri Lankan cricketers Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. It is known for serving up enormous Sri Lankan crabs, dubbed “crabzillas”.

We would love to have a permanent Ministry of Crab restaurant in Dubai one day soon
Chef Dharshan Munidasa

But what makes Sri Lankan crab so special? “They grow into gigantic ‘crabzillas’, [that can weigh more than] 2 kilograms,” Munidasa told The National, ahead of the Ministry of Crab pop-up coming soon in Dubai.

“It is this size that made our crabs popular in the beginning. Today, it is difficult to find crabs that weigh more than 1kg [around the world], but in Sri Lanka, it is still possible. Our mud crabs come from the lagoons on the coastal belt of the country and are wild-caught, which, combined with the sweetness of the meat, makes it special,” he says.

Ministry of Crab is hosting a pop-up at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort from Wednesday to Sunday, November 3 to 7, the brand’s first since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Munidasa says it will include headline hits from the Sri Lankan eatery’s menu.

Ministry of Crab's famed pepper crab dish. Photo: Ministry of Crab

Ministry of Crab is invited to do pop-ups because of our classics,” Munidasa says. “The main challenge we face at these events is sourcing our amazing mud crab and freshwater prawns, as these key ingredients are what makes us who we are. If we deviate from the classics, we will not be giving the people what they want.

“The garlic chilli preparation method for both freshwater prawn and crab is our most unique and popular method of preparation, but our pepper crab is also up there, so we are serving both dishes at our pop-up in Dubai.”

Click through the gallery above to see dishes that will be served at the Ministry of Crab pop-up.

The five-day pop-up will be hosted poolside at the hotel in Palm Jumeirah, an area Munidasa says will be transformed “into a little piece of Ministry of Crab”. Diners will enjoy a five-course menu for Dh425 ($115), which includes crab liver pate to share, baked crab, as well Sri Lankan pepper crab, garlic chilli prawn, and coconut creme brulee for dessert.

There is no doubt that chef Munidasa is excited to share his dishes with a Dubai audience, saying that he is particularly keen to show off “the quality and the size of the crab we will be plating up”.

“Dubai has not seen crabs of this size, in this quantity ever,” he says. “We are so excited to show this aspect of Ministry of Crab, where knowing the provenance of an ingredient is our core philosophy … keeping that ingredient in its best condition throughout its journey from lagoon to plate.”

The interiors of Ministry of Crab, in Colombo's Old Dutch Hospital. Photo: Ministry of Crab

Regional crab is not on the menu for the pop-up. The chef explains that the team has organised “five shipments of ingredients for the five days”, which he hopes will provide the most “authentic Ministry of Crab experience”. The restaurant is known for its no-freezer policy, so it seems the same ethic will be applied here.

Past Ministry of Crab pop-ups have proven to be popular in the UAE, with events taking place at Abu Dhabi’s Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, and at the Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai, in April 2019. As well as the original Colombo location, the restaurant now has outposts in Shanghai, Manila, Mumbai, the Maldives and Bangkok – so is a Dubai Ministry of Crab a far-fetched dream?

“We have been working on this for some time,” says Munidasa. “We would love to have a permanent restaurant in Dubai one day and I hope that day will be soon!”

Updated: November 02, 2021, 10:58 AM