Unique and fascinating - yes.
Memory - dim but this one stands WAY out
We had "just caught" lobsters on the beach in Trincomalee. Sunset was magnificent. It was a hotel, had an open dining room with ceiling fans right on the beach.
We ate all over the country during our visit and i do not remember a bad meal but I'm afaid no restaurant names either. You'll have a wonderful time.
i was in sri lanka in '98 and if you like seafood you should definitely try the "beach wadiya restaurant" in wellawatte, about 20 minutes from colombo centre. crabs, seafood, prawns. make reservations.
you mentioned being in mount lavinia: mount lavinia hotel has several restaurants one of which features the cooking of chef publis who uses many traditional ingredients in his dishes.
you should also try hoppers which are concave pancakes made in a mini-wok so that the outer edges are crisp while the bottom/middle resembles steamed idli. at night on most busy junctions you will find "hopper" stands/stores where you can watch the cook make hoppers while you wait. you can also get hoppers with an egg steamed right in the middle.
most of these hopper shops will also sell string hoppers which look like latkes made from vermicelli (made from white rice or red rice dough) as well as "godhamba roti" large almost-transparent handkerchief-like bread, and kottu roti (godhamba roti chopped up and cooked like fried rice with an egg and vegetables and sauce).
all of the above come with the requisite chili sambols and curries. yum yum!
i also love the chinese food, very spicy, we had a great meal (10 of us feasted for $50) at flower drum restaurant in colombo 3, colpetty.
[even the pizza toppings were spicy:) i tried the pizza hut "spicy mutton pizza"]
for sri lankan style muslim biryani try "buharis" in colombo 10, maradana.
places like "chariot", "fab", as well as the "fountain cafe" and the famous "pagoda house" in pettah, offer "short eats" -- mini turn overs with spicy fillings, stuffed capsicums, "chinese rolls" etc etc.
out of colombo in the cultural triangle areas look for guest houses/ restaurants endorsed by the sri lankan tourist board for hearty meals with rice and several curries. for dessert ask for buffalo milk curd with treacle from the kitul palm.
and don't forget to sample fruit: orange king coconut, mangoes (if it's the season try the "kartha kolomban" (sp?) or the jaffna variety), purple mangosteens, red rambutans, woodapple, pink jambu, bananas (my favourite is the "seeni").
finally, i enjoyed the "elephant" brand soft drinks, spicy ginger beer, bitter lemon, cream soda etc.
these are just things i tried. there is an abundance of eating places (some which cater just to the lunch crowd at offices -- you point at what you want and they pack it up for you in a disposable packet), restaurants, hotel restaurants. maybe your hosts can guide you as well. all the best!
I must admit when I went to sri lanka ( july 2002 ) it seemed like london as far as the food is concerned. I was driving down a road sorry I don't know which one and I saw a dominos pizza. Then I latter saw a macdonnalds and a pizza hut.
I think its great that they do loads of different foods types because it keeps tourists and the locals happy.
I went to the FLOWER DRUM on thurstan road columbo 3 and I thought it was amazing 12 of us dined for £60! aint that great. I also being a big fan of string hoppers ( noodles ) tried the vegetable noodles, I was very suprised to find that even they were spicy. But I mannaged to satify myself by eating rice , vegetables and chicken yum yum.
On another case of yum yum. There are some really sexy guys in sri lanka and I thought I had seen it all what with the school boys ( im 14 ) , but then when I went to then bentota bech hotel I met a dead cute waiter called asanka. I thought nobody would top him but boy! when I went to the FLOWER DRUM I saw a REALLY hot guy behind the take away booth. so if you read this then Mr Muba your so hot. ( from rachel the girl in the pink top blue trousers and with all the kids by the fish tank ).
Thanks for a great holiday sri lanka and expecilly to all of the 4 hotels I stayed in.