>> [CLOSED] Banana Leaf | Eat the World NYC

06 October 2011

[CLOSED] Banana Leaf

MALAYSIA

I expected good things from Banana Leaf in Sunset Park, which opened late this summer. I was completely not expecting to be thoroughly wow'd by the food. But this place is a keeper, and hopefully sticks around for a while.

They have a vast, intimidating menu, but a lot of these options can be eliminated if you take Thai and other Southeast Asian dishes away as well as the Chinese. The restaurant completely feels like most Chinese places in Sunset Park, and is run by Chinese people, who make up a quarter of the people in Malaysia.

Give yourself the benefit of a large group and as many appetizers as possible, which all seem to shine. The poh piah ($4.95) spring rolls stuffed with jicama are a good start, as well as the dish of pickled vegetables called achat ($4.95, below). This dish also has a lot of spicy kick to it and a sweet sesame sauce, a combination of three attacks on your taste buds.


Another good starter (albeit a gigantic plate) is the pasembur ($7.95, below), one of my favorite Malaysian dishes and probably the best version I have had. The trick here is how delicately the tofu and shrimp pancakes are fried, with what must be a good dose of sugar added to the batter. The textures are great. It is all over a bed of cucumber, jicama, and bean sprouts, then topped with what is simply called the "chef's special sauce." It's a bit nutty, and might have pureed carrots as well.


If you want to try a very special dish, order a bowl of the asam laksa ($5.95, below), which is an incredible combination of intense sour and spice flavors within the base of a lemongrass broth. There are two types of noodles in the dish, smaller almost glass noodles, and very homemade round thicker noodles. Add in some fish flakes, onions, pineapples and more, and you are in for a supreme treat.


I can never help myself from ordering the beef rendang ($11.95, below) at a Malaysian restaurant, and the one here is not top flight, but satisfying. The large meat cubes are tender, but a bit lifeless, while the coconut milk based sauce is tasty but a little bland after the soup. There are also a lot of cloves in the dish, which you will inevitably bite into.


On my visit, the service was almost too attentive. Our waitress was taking care of us without end, refilling tea without asking, making sure everything was in place and good. We were even the benefactors of the continuing 15% discount they are giving for their grand opening. I am not sure how long this is planned to last, but now is the time to get down there!

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