Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sweet and Mild at Banana Leaf (820 Broadway)

Banana Leaf on Urbanspoon 5:30PM on a Saturday night and the place was already about half full and with reservations on the way. I was solo, but they had some two-seat arrangements so I got a seat right away.
It can look really busy and full from the outside probably because they seat people closer to the windows first, but it is a pretty big and deep restaurant, so take a chance and walk in if you don't have reservations.

Roti Canai ($7 for "2 pieces") Flaky layered bread served with coconut curry sauce.
  • Came piping hot, so probably freshly prepared.
  • Pre-chopped up, so it's a bit odd to see it listed on my bill as "2 pcs". But there is a decent amount of it on your plate at least. Unless you go really easy on the curry, you will probably not have enough for all your roti. Since both are sweet, you can get away with using a token amount of curry with each dip.
    • If you are also ordering a curry, you can instead save some of the roti to go with your separate curry order.
  • The weirdest roti canai I have ever had. I grew up in Singapore with roti prata that didn't have sweetened dough. I have had roti canai with sweet dough, but nothing as sweet as this. You can eat this on its own as dessert except it comes steaming hot.
  • The curry was quite thick (easy to dip, therefore) and also very sweet. I think this really killed it for me -- a curry that was more sweet than curry flavoured, and with basically no spicy heat to it. Taste was coconutty, and maybe in an effort to make it vegetarian they took out the meat broth, which double-killed it for me--there is a curry specific to roti prata when ordered on its own, and this wasn't it.
  • Maybe they have carefully adjusted this menu item based on years of customer feedback, but I will never order it again from Banana Leaf: It is just too alien compared to the roti prata I remember fondly from my childhood and which is replicated more closely as "roti canai" at other places like Spoon Kitchen and Bo Laksa King's Bubbles and Bits (now just "Laksa King").
Malaysia Laksa Curry Mee ($13) Curry soup with egg and rice noodles, bean sprouts, tofu, egg, chicken, fish cakes, squid, and shrimp. Topped with mint.
  • Didn't see any mint. Some cilantro, though.
  • Exactly three small prawns (shrimp), two smallish curls of squid, about one tablespoon of pulled chicken, maybe five slices of sweet fish cake, and about half a small chicken egg. Seemed like a lot of bean sprouts already mixed in with the noodles.
    • Nice touch with pre-slicing the egg so you can tackle it more easily with your chopsticks.
  • The total quantity of the "toppings" is maybe 1 cup's worth. You can decide whether that is fair value for your money. When they separate it in the bowl so you can itemize that everything is there, it looks a lot more disappointing -- you might think "What? Only three shrimp?"
  • There is a chili symbol next to the menu item but it is really quite mild, unless you really are not used to anything spicy at all. For someone who grew up in Singapore and likes their curry, the level of spiciness was disappointing. Other than that, the broth was quite tasty.
  • Filling portion for $13, and with all that soup, you really want to think twice about ordering a drink.
Young Coconut ($6)
  • Bring a bag with handles for this one. They don't have bags, only large paper bags. With no handles.
  • It's a whole coconut, cut open at the top, and with a spoon so you can dig out the meat. But it's really awkward to handle the meat through the small hatch at the top, so I recommend you drink it at the restaurant then take home the coconut to crack it open.


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