Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Restaurant Review: Banana Leaf (Malaysian and Thai cuisine)

Banana Leaf - lunch on September 5, 2013, 3.5 stars on yelp

One of the standby restaurants a couple of friends and I like to go to for lunch is Banana Leaf, a Malaysian/Thai restaurant near our old office.  We all work at different companies from each other now but we still like to get together for lunch every so often and Banana Leaf is "our" place to go. It could probably be considered a medium-sized restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating but if you don't get here until noon on a weekday, forget about trying to get a table quickly.  The best time to arrive is no later than 11:45 and even then you might have to wait but it should only be for 5-10 minutes.  Any later and it would probably be a 20-30 minute wait and who has that kind of time during the week?
Spicy clear soup served with each entree
We always get the roti appetizer and it's just fried flaky goodness, puffy, more airy and less substantial than naan but similarly tasty.  I made roti when I was in culinary school and, similar to a croissant, it's endless rounds of turning, pressing, turning, pressing until you have infinitesimally thin, multiple layers of dough that will puff and rise as it's fried. It comes with a dipping sauce but I'm a plain eater so I consume roti on its own.
Roti appetizer
The other must-get dish for me is - no surprise - the pad thai.  Banana Leaf's pad thai can be ordered mild, medium-spicy or make-your-eyes-water spicy.  I get medium-spicy at the most and even that sometimes has a little too much of a bite for me.  But it's good.  Their pad thai also comes with bean sprouts and squid so I always order it without either.  Last time I went, they omitted the bean sprouts correctly but somehow interpreted my "no squid" request as "all squid" so I didn't even get the chicken or shrimp but just all squid.  I'm not the type to complain about the food just because of one mistake and I was there more for the company of my friends so I let it slide and didn't say anything to the waiter but just picked out the squid. This time around, I made the same request of no bean sprouts/no squid and they got the no-squid part right but unfortunately left plenty of bean sprouts in both my dish and one of my friends' order as she also didn't want bean sprouts.  She and I both ended up picking out the bean sprouts in our dish rather than sending our orders back because we're not the fussy, complaining types. And if you think it's a pain to pick out bean sprouts from very similar-looking noodles, you'd be right.
Pad Thai - medium spicy
I wasn't mad about it but since this was the second time in a row they'd gotten my order wrong, I did feel compelled to (politely) let our waiter know both pad thais came out incorrectly with bean sprouts.  He apologized and said he'd let the manager know.  I didn't think it was a big deal and didn't give it another thought but shortly after the manager did come over to our table, apologized personally for the "kitchen mistake" and said he would give us a free dessert.  We didn't think that was necessary but it was nice of him.  And true to his word, he brought us a fried banana dessert with mango ice cream that was actually pretty good - I love fried bananas.
Fried Bananas with Mango Ice Cream
I have to applaud it as a smart move on the manager's part.  We didn't ask for (or expect) a refund on the incorrectly prepared dishes but he still made a nice gesture that made a positive impression and left us with an experience that encouraged repeat business.  The food cost of the dessert was cheaper than comping us a free meal so it was a good financial move as well as a good customer relations one. Not to mention if we hadn't had that dessert before, it was a good one to sample in case we'd want to get it again on a return visit.  Plus I also like that he didn't set a precedent that anyone could complain about their meal just to get it comp'd.  Restaurants have to be smart about staying in business but also be good to their customers without spending needlessly and that was a great way to do it.


  1. This is one of our favourite places to go with kids on weekends. And, the waiting part, you are right...its a looong wait :) But, so worth it!!
    I've never tried Pad here before, maybe on my next visit. My son's fav is Rendang chicken..
    I want to applaud you for a lovely blog & i stumbled upon it a coule of weeks back. I love your restaurant reviews & desserts you bake are awesome. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    1. Thanks! Glad to hear someone else likes Banana Leaf so well too. I definitely recommend the pad thai :).