Never Judge a Book By Its Cover is one phrase one could use to describe the Red Pepper Rasa or Red Pepper Diner. The outside of this Sri Lankan restaurant does not impress, but do not judge by appearances. I’ve come to learn sometimes that hole in the wall establishments can have the tastiest food.
The server said their meals are all gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free. They ask you when you order how much heat or spiciness you prefer. I ordered my food with mild spice on the first visit. The food was very flavourful.
Sri Lankan Tea with Kithul Jaggery
The first item I was served was Sri Lankan tea with with milk. Sri Lankan tea is Ceylon tea. The country of Sri Lanka was formerly known by the name Ceylon. According to Healthline and other websites there are health benefits to Ceylon tea. Some of the benefits these sites list is it boosts your metabolism, it is high in antioxidants ( which boosts the immune system) and it may help regulate blood glucose. This tea contains potassium.
The Sri Lankan tea came with Kithul jaggery. I was told this treat was to be nibbled on with the tea. Kithul is made from the sap of a fishtail palm tree. They get this sap from the flowers of the fishtail palm. It was naturally sweet. Some websites say this treat has iron, potassium and calcium. It is said to be a remedy for cough and cold, reduces migraines, improves digestion, detoxifies the liver, and cleanses the respiratory tract, among other things. The owner told me that the fishtail palm grows mainly in the centre of Sri Lanka.
The next items that arrived were the appetisers I ordered. I chose the sampler, which included fish cutlet, vegetable spring rolls, and vegetable samosa. I prefer these Sri Lankan Samosas over ones I have eaten at Indian resturants. They were lighter and the flavours were very appealing.
String Hopper Kothu Roti
After that, the main course of String Hopper Kothu Roti arrived. This is a rice noodle dish with stir fried onion, ginger, garlic, cabbage, leeks, carrot, and egg. I choose to add chicken to it. Next time I plan to order this I will ask for medium heat.
For dessert I had Watalappan. This is a custard with coconut milk, palm sugar, cashews, cinnamon cloves, cardamom and nutmeg. I find desserts at American restaurants are overpowering with sweetness. This dessert was mildly sweet, and felt just right.
Second Visit Kothu Roti with Curried Beets
On another trip to this restaurant I ordered the Kothu Roti. I asked for medium heat. This dish is considered a roadside speciality in Sri Lanka. This stir fry contains eggs, onions, vegetables, spices with a curry sauce with shredded flat breads. You can add different meats to this dish. On the side I ordered shredded curried beets. This is by far one of the best ways I have experienced beets. It is prepared by flavouring it with coconut milk and traditional spices.
The food at this restaurant was very tasty and I plan to return. I thank my relative, Max, who found this gem. I love experiencing ethnic restaurants that serve healthy food and this spot was right up my alley. Not only was the food outstanding, but the service was too.
On a side note, the owners told me they grow a variety of vegetables themselves. Leeks, tomatoes, peppers, squash, spinach, beans and ocra are among some of the vegetables they grow to use in their recipes. Other items they import from Sri Lanka. Saman Munaweera says their diet includes a lot of vegetables. He attributes the fact that his family is rarely sick with colds or viruses to their native diet.
Check their website to see their current hours. I was told they are open from about 10:30-8 six days a week. They are closed Tuesdays. I recommend calling ahead to make sure what their hours are for that day. This restaurant is small. However, both times I visited it was not a problem with Covid restrictions to get in. The hours and menus are limited due to the pandemic. Pre-pandemic they had a buffet and a larger menu. This is typical of many restaurants during these times.
This restaurant is located north of I-84 on Route 9D. Some information online lists the location in Beacon, while other sites list it as Wappingers. The owner says it is in Wappingers. It is very close to Beacon however.
If you are coming by train from Manhattan, take the Metro North Hudson Line to Beacon from Grand Central Station. Taxis are usually available at the Beacon station or look up a local taxi company when you arrive. It is a couple of miles from the train station, but it is along a busy road, so I do not recommend walking it. Beacon station is the closest train station to this restaurant. The next station further north, New Hamburg, is more secluded with no taxis waiting.
Whether you are visiting DIA Beacon, the Hudson Valley, or Beacon itself, if you want healthy, flavourful food with friendly, outstanding service include Red Pepper Diner on your itinerary. It is a hidden gem.