Opening a Sri Lankan restaurant in Farmers Branch would be a bold move for anyone. After all, it would be the first Sri Lankan eatery in North Texas, and one of just a handful in the United States. But SpicyZest is Nimidu Senaratne's first restaurant, a passion project that has met with unanticipated success and critical acclaim. SpicyZest began as a catering company operated out of the family kitchen, then expanded to a take-out only storefront before regular customers, hungry for more, demanded tables. Four tables have turned into six. Senaratne studied hospitality in Sri Lanka and Singapore and clearly sees it as the bedrock of his business. He and his wife, Chamari Walliwalagedara, often walk newcomers through the menu, especially during Saturday's lunch buffet. And SpicyZest's food, from crispy-spicy deviled chicken to the divine stir-fry of meat, scallions and torn flatbread that is kottu, is a superb, sharply presented vision of Sri Lanka. Yes, much of the fare is spicy — nasi goreng, an Indonesian dish, comes with a pile of red pepper flakes on the side — but the flavors, especially the relatively mild but awe-inspiring curries, go much deeper than mere heat. Few Dallas restaurants have menus as interesting or success stories as inspiring as SpicyZest's.
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