Chelaka Gunamuni, aka Chaz, is the 33 year old chef/owner of Kottu House, a Sri Lankan micro – bites restaurant that has been top-ranked by the NY Times and Zagat. For the past four years, the tiny, 10 seat restaurant has made a name for itself on the Lower East Side, whose reputation as a flourishing spot for hip, tatted restaurateurs has revolutionized the culinary world. But this October, the beloved restaurant will be shutting its doors for good.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We regretfully announce that Kottu House decided to close its doors just two weeks ago.

There’s this one dish called the Kottu.

It’s like a Sri Lankan pad thai with shredded Indian flatbread, or “Roti”, in place of noodles and vegetables, eggs, and spices stir- fried into crispy, brown perfection. The dish is equal parts hangover cure and flavor explosion on your tongue. If one were adventurous, one could even ask for it to be extra spicy, with the chef dousing it in a fiery sauce that rivals the hottest pepper you can think of.

I can confirm, the tier 4 tongue burn is well worth the flavor.

Born in Sri Lanka, raised in Milan and Staten Island, 33-year-old chef/owner and self-proclaimed “mad scientist” Chelaka “Chaz” Gunamuni wanted to create a space that meshed the eclectic foods of his home country with the dynamic upbringing that made up his identity. This dichotomy is reflected in his shop where a wall of black and white family portraits from Sri Lanka and Milan (featuring his cousin, co-investor, and co-founder of Venmo Iqram Magdon-Ismael) is accompanied by a pulsating neon Kottu House logo projected on top of the menu.

But in October of this year, Chaz will shut down Kottu House in the US and attempt to move his concept abroad to London where he will reunite with his wife and two daughters for the first time in 10 months. Despite having lived in NYC since he was 12 years old, Chaz is a DREAMer.

When his family first settled down in the US in 2001, the processing of his paperwork to become a citizen was put on hiatus after the attacks of September 11th. He overstayed his visa as a teenager and, for 12 years, he has been treading water in political limbo as an illegal alien in the United States.

Working in the food industry is one of the few options for work for many DREAMers. Eventually, Chaz’s work at other restaurants allowed him to save up enough money to start his own restaurant, and, thus, Kottu House was born.

Coming from a family of restauranteurs (his aunt owns a Sri Lankan restaurant, Sigiri, in the East Village), that specialize in traditional, family style Sri Lankan food, his family balked at the concept of opening a restaurant that sold only street food like Lamprais, Kottu, and beef rolls (almost like a deep fried egg roll).

God’s gift to earth – The Beef Roll

Despite their biggest fears, the place that has become a Lower East Side institution. The blend of affordable, addictive bites and beer has garnered Chaz recognition on sites from GrubStreet to the NY Times. Kottu House has become so beloved that his parents even joined in.

Sri Lankan food is not new to New York City by any means. In the 1960s, after the Sri Lankan Civil War, over 800 Sri Lankans immigrated to the US and landed in one of America’s greatest boroughs, Staten Island. Today, New York City has the largest population of Sri Lankans outside of the country with a whopping 5,000 in the US.

While the future of DREAMers, like Chaz, is uncertain for thousands of New Yorkers, Chaz has his sights set on creating an alternate version of Kottu House in London.

In the meantime, head over to Kottu House to support Chaz and try some of New York’s best Sri Lankan bites before it’s gone.

Chau Mui

Chau is the original New York City stoop kid who cut her teeth hanging out in Union Square, ate soup dumplings in Chinatown and explored this great city by train, foot and everything in between.

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Oh weekends, how much we adore you.

When Friday rolls around we countdown the minutes to 6 PM to cut out of the office and head to happy hour with our friends. Then Saturday morning rolls around and we lounge around the apartment trying to figure out what to do – a million Yelp reviews, texts to friends “I wanna do something fun, but like, not wait a million hours for Brunch”, and next thing you know, it’s 3PM and you’ve wiled the day away.

So? What’s the solution you ask? Go dumpling hopping!

A dumpling tour just might be one of the best things in the world, after cuddling with puppies and getting called up first on the kickball team in HS (so what if it was 10 years ago, whatever).

This dumpling tour will take around 3 hours and is the perfect adventure for a Sunday afternoon or Friday night for 1- 3 close friends, visiting family members or even, a fun date. The best part? You’ll get to explore the neighborhood and walk off some off all the dumplings you’ll be eating!

Get on those comfy sneakers, my friends. And if you want the TRUE experience – come join us for one of our dumpling tours! The next one is July 13th @ 11AM and 3PM.

RANKING OF DUMPLINGS (Best of 5 🥟)
Stop 1: Tasty Dumpling (42 Mulberry Street) 5 for $1.50 – #ciaoootip Grab some dumplings here 🥟 🥟

Stop 2: Hand Pulled Noodles (1 Doyers Street) 12 for $10.50 – #ciaoootip If it’s crowded, ask to eat downstairs!🥟🥟

Stop 3: 88 Lan Zhou Hand Pulled Noodles (40 Bowery) – #ciaoootip The fried dumplings are great but try the steamed ones as well!🥟🥟🥟

Stop 4: Super Taste Restaurant (26 Eldridge street) – #ciaoootip Try the Korean kimchi dumplings!!! They’re crispy, and left with openings on the ends. The noodles are bomb too. 🥟🥟🥟🥟

Stop 5: Shu Jiao Fu Zhou Cuisine Restaurant (118 Eldridge Street) –  They only serve steamed dumplings and they are the most homemade tasting dumplings. 🥟🥟🥟🥟

Extra Tips?
SOUP DUMPLINGS
Our favorite soup dumplings are from Shanghai Asian Manor.


FROZEN DUMPLINGS
Keeping a bag of dumplings in your freezer is the ultimate life hack. When you’re tired, or starving, boiling a few dumplings will get you filled and happy in 7 mins. Throw a bag of ramen and some veggies, green onions and you are set! Check out the Hua Du Frozen Dumpling shop in the supermarket on 253 Grand Street.

Chau Mui

Chau is the original New York City stoop kid who cut her teeth hanging out in Union Square, ate soup dumplings in Chinatown and explored this great city by train, foot and everything in between.

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I remember when I was a kid, for $1 I could get a quadruple concoction of the best snacks from the deli around the corner from my school. On a good day, it was a 25 cent pack of Winterfresh, 25 cent bag of sour cream and onion chips (obvi Herr’s), 25 cent bag of garlic and onion and a 25 cent barrel drink of neon colored high fructose corn syrup. The dollar was RICH.

Nowadays, $1 can’t buy you much. That is, except for the quintessential dollar pizza.

With over 70 locations hawking the dollar fuel, New Yorkers rich and poor wait side by side for the pinnacle cheesy slice. Quality is equally diverse, with some places bordering on cardboard Elio’s and other’s nearing the “Hey, that actually wasn’t that bad and I’m sober” realization. Dollar pizza is more than cheap nourishment, it’s survival. Whether it’s New York City tears of terror from a bad breakup or drunken happiness after a late night, the comfort of a dollar slice is more than

Alas, my love letter to dollar pizza goes specifically to the Two Bros Pizzeria on 25th and 6th avenue during a particularly nefarious point in my life.

In 2017, I tried to pursue a full-time career as the founder of a published travel magazine (the first of many, many iterations of the site that you are reading now). I worked out of a coworking space for months on end trying to mash together the quotes of a Swedish illustrator living in Hong Kong into a Squarespace page that I had designed, (and redesigned meticulously to no end) until it seemed, no felt, PERFECT.

There were days that I would tell people about my idea (which changed twenty times over, I might add) and feel the ebbs and flows of my emotions based on their reactions. Other days I would be switching up the colors of my logo while the person at the desk next to me was in the midst of a heated phone call raising $80,000 for their startup.

Suffice to say, I ate quite a bit of my feelings.

As a broke startup founder, I couldn’t do anything but treat myself to the quintessential dollar slice.

Here, in this ten gauges too bright, fluorescent pizzeria, I would douse my slice in Kirkland Signatures red pepper flakes, elbow to elbow with a portly businessman overdressed for Flatiron and tucked in between a teenage German tourist who folded his pizza backwards with cheese on the outside, finding comfort in that little slice that at least, maybe life wasn’t so bad.

Chau Mui

Chau is the original New York City stoop kid who cut her teeth hanging out in Union Square, ate soup dumplings in Chinatown and explored this great city by train, foot and everything in between.

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America’s First Suburb

Prior to Brooklyn Heights became the meeting ground for young parents, Brooklyn was a very different place. There were no Uppababy stroller pushing yoga moms or cargo short wearing, backyard grilling, BBQ dads here. Until 1814, Brooklyn or “Breuckelen” as it was named by the Dutch was nothing but a piece of farmland (previously inhabited by the Lenape Native Americans).

It wasn’t until Robert Fulton (inventor of the Steamboat, also namesake behind both Fulton Streets), was able to offer up an easy commute for Manhattan’s elite wanting more space. Brooklyn Heights was built with a nearly identical grid system as the city and established as America’s very first suburb. Bridge and tunnel crowd? More like carriage and steam..boat crowd? Ok, we tried.

The Little Suburb That Fought Against Slavery

During the 1850s and 1860s, Brooklyn became a hub for some of the country’s most prominent abolitionists. Many churches also became part of the Underground Railroad and altogether helped as many as 100,000 slaves flee the South before the Civil War.

You can still visit some of the places that were a part of the Underground Railroad, like Plymouth Church which came to be known as “Grand Central Depot” for slaves en route to Canada. Other revolutionaries, who’ve graced these pews? Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, and Martin Luther King Jr. Just a reminder that the actions of a few can change the course of an entire nation. Don’t you forget it. #guncontrolnow

Downtown Brooklyn Today

Nowadays, Downtown Brooklyn has a somewhat sterile, zero nightlife, somewhat corporate, too rich for my blood, married with kids, a total nightmare for a single, young person type of reputation.

But there’s so much beauty and history on every street. Arthur Miller, Truman Capote and Thomas Wolfe lived here. Activism was bred here. In a neighborhood just far enough from the hustle and bustle, and just tight-knit enough to have a sense of community, you’ll see a place that’s still fiercely tied to its roots with a new discovery on every corner.

Photo by rduta on Flickr
Eat

Yemen Cafe

Being in the restaurant feels like you’re transported to Yemen, and the food is divine. The best part is the diverse groups of families, friends, solo diners coming together to enjoy the food in this space. Try the Lamb Fahsah (pictured above) and come hungry for food to nourish the belly and soul.

Drink

Henry Public

One half neighborhood joint, one half perfect spot for a first date, Henry Public is that reliable, intimate, dimly lit bar with great cocktails and a bomb kitchen. Smooth jazz plays at night, and the old school bar is bedazzled with 1970’s wood paneling and framed black and white photos to give this place a shipyard vibe. Go for the grilled cheese or turkey sandwich. You’ll definitely impress those bumble dates with this honey.

Shop

Collyer’s Mansion

This shop is based off the infamous Collyer Brothers, a pair of wealthy hoarders who stuffed their 12 bedroom mansion in Harlem with pianos, books and found furniture until one brother died of starvation and the other was accidentally crushed by the trash in a makeshift booby trap. The shop though is MUCH lighter and filled with tons of Wes Anderson-y “Fantastic Mr. Fox” like art and home goods. Adorable. Cute and definitely filled with plenty of kitschy things for your home.

See

Brooklyn Heights Promenade

There’s something incredibly romantic about seeing Manhattan from Brooklyn at night. The water, the glistening skies at night, but probably the best sight? Staring into the windows of the incredible homes along the waterfront – people don’t like to leave their blinds down, and baby doll, these apartments are Niiiiiiice. PS – I am not advocating being a peeping tom, just looking at nice apartments. Don’t be a creep, yo.

Chau Mui

Chau is the original New York City stoop kid who cut her teeth hanging out in Union Square, ate soup dumplings in Chinatown and explored this great city by train, foot and everything in between.

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Pierrick Bouquet and Derek van Bakergem are bringing the world’s largest Rosé, music, and food festival to Randall’s Island this July 19th & 20th. Get your tickets HERE.

Before we get into this article, let me just start off by wiping the slate clean on what your perception of what a “festival” is. If you’re imagining epileptic neon throngs of EDM ravers jackhammer dancing to some psychedelic screen or some Dystopian music ground on a “private” island peppered with FEMA tents this is not that. Not even close. 

Instead, I want you to imagine the world’s most elaborate Instagram worthy picnic. Feasts of epic proportions (Yes, even by New Yorkers high standards)! Music that you can actually dance to! (Ummm..hello Mark Ronson and Chromeo) And of course! Rosé all day! (plus wines and spirits of the highest, Summer-iest caliber)

This epitome of the perfect day this summer, my dear friends, is PINKNIC.

Photo by Pinknic

PINKNIC is the world’s largest Rosé, music, and food festival. It’s also a homegrown New York festival taking place this July 19 & 20 at Randall’s Island. Within the span of three short years, the trifecta has nearly tripled in size from 8,000 to 20,000 people and grown a veritable lineup of NY’s finest food heavyweights (Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, Mighty Quinns BBQ, Roberta’s). Instead of simply being a music or food festival, Pinknic aims to create the best overall music, food and drink experience this summer.

Did I mention the overall aesthetic though? It’s an Instagram wet dream. A sea of pink and white concert goers sipping rosé on pink blankets. In the VIP section, there’s a pool with jumbo size inflatables of every type of flamingo, swan, and animal for your feed, and if you want to shell out the extra cash-ola for a cabana, you can have a private ten person party with your own rosé, champagne and day service. 

Photo by Pinknic

The idea for this magnificent idea? From wine connoisseurs, Derek van Bakergem and Pierrick Bouquet. At first glance, off duty European models, maybe? Purveyors of the non-sale section of James Perse? Definitely. But the one common thread that I come to learn throughout the interview, these guys know their wine and how to throw a party.

Back in 2015, Pierrick Bouquet was working with a group of 16 winemakers from the Loire Valley to bring the distribution of French wines to the United States. Not too long after, he was managing branding, marketing, and social media for all French wines all across the states, eventually opening up his own agency. If you’re wondering how Rosé got to be the “millennials drink of choice”, you can bet Pierrick played a major role in making it land in your girlfriend’s brunch.

Simultaneously, Derek van Bakergem was in the midst of his own startup, a Sparkling Wine Cocktail in a can that was the ideal drink for poolside parties and rooftops (first rule of club partying…no glass). He then dove into the music industry, managing musicians all across the country.

In 2015 – the two met at Pierrick’s first rosé themed party, a three-hour cruise around the city sampling over 100 different rosé wines called La Nuit En Rosé. The boat cruise saw 2,000 people join and over that time, revelers were asked to dress in all pink and white, and thus began the concept for PINKNIC. 

La Nuit En Rosé.

NOT JUST ROSÉ

A quick note: Let’s take a look at what makes Rosé so damn loveable. 

Oh rosé, how we love you so. That light pink that slinks down your gullet like a smooth, smooth summertime 2000’s R&B ballad. The crisp sweetness that’s light, but not too light. It’s the perfect medium for the wine drinker that’s intimidated by big wine lists, but yummy enough for a self-appointed connoisseur to still comment, “I’m picking up hints of cherry and kiwi”.  Combine that with the generally affordable cost and universally simple ordering of “I’ll have the rosé” sans year, region, birth note and you have yourself a millennial hit. Plus, the pink glass in your hand when you’re laughing by the pool is simply visual gold on the gram’. 

In the late 1990s, White Zinfindel had its own resurgence, and drinkers killed off the supply.  With a waning supply of white wine, winemakers opted to sell rosé instead for its light varietals that were flavor and color adjacent to the Zin. Rosé continued to grow in popularity until the 2010’s when the pink glasses started taking over Instagram feeds worldwide, and the “Rosé All Day” lifestyle was born. 

In the late summer of 2014, Hampton’s beachgoers were consuming so much of the pink stuff it was deemed the “Great Hamptons Rosé Shortage of 2014”. Last year, a whopping 50 percent of Provençal rosé was consumed by Americans.

In 2016, the duo decided to scale up and take Rosé from a boat cruise to a festival. With Derek’s music background of booking talent and Pierrick’s background within the wine industry, they were able to successfully pitch Governor’s Island for the city’s first ever Rosé festival. The first festival drew over 8,000 New Yorkers to the festival.

“This is for New Yorkers. We’re a cultural institution focused on building events. We want to create incredible food, music and arts festival that will stick for years to come and highlights the diversity of NYC and rosé”.

2019 will be the biggest year yet for PINKNIC. With an estimated 20,000 revelers, the two have pulled out all of their stops. Hope to see you there! 

Get your tickets HERE for Pinknic.

Chau Mui

Chau is the original New York City stoop kid who cut her teeth hanging out in Union Square, ate soup dumplings in Chinatown and explored this great city by train, foot and everything in between.

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