It was a cold and rainy Saturday, very normal for New York in May apparently, and I had been out all day doing ‘New York’ things…sample sale, waxing, trying to find the subway station in Chinatown, etc. I had a dinner appointment with a few ‘colleagues’ at Banana Leaf Malaysian Bistro in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I know what you’re thinking, ‘Why go to Brooklyn?’ The answer to your question is, for one, Manhattan is packed up the ass on the weekend, and two because Banana Leaf was definitely worth it.
Banana Leaf specializes in Southeast Asian cooking with a French flare. I was a little skeptical at first only because nowadays every restaurant is fusing some random thing with another-Cuban with Japanese, Mexican with Italian, Russian with Nicaraguan, etc. But the combination of Asian delicacies with various sauces to accompany each platter heightens the taste.
For appetizers we ordered: ‘Roti Canai’ (which is in Indian pancake you tear with your hands and dunk into chicken curry), a platter of spring rolls, chicken samosas, glazed chicken skewers, and fried calamari. Accenting these tasty delights were peanut sauce, curry sauce, and sweet ‘n sour sauce. You’re probably thinking, ‘that doesn’t sound too out of the norm’. Oh but let me tell you, each appetizer and sauce had a twist: traditional recipes taken and altered to perfection. The calamari had a unique flavor, unlike anything I’ve ever tasted, that forced me and my colleges to finish every last ring on the plate.
Just a little side note, main courses on the menu were categorized as: ‘From the Land’ (meat); ‘From the Ski’ (poultry); and ‘From the Sea’ (seafood). I loved it-really cute and really distinctive. So what did we eat? Black pepper steak with wasabi mashed potatoes, Ayam Kerabu (roasted French cut chicken with apple, mango, peanut assam sauce), and Mamak Curry Shrimp (sautéed prawns, mixed veggies, coconut curry sauce, and pineapple coconut rice). I would recommend all three, but I would also recommend you bring an appetite when you get there. Portions are considerably sized (thank God), and too good not to eat.
After all this food and wine and tea, we had dessert, because the new look for this summer is flabby and I’m only up to 150 lbs. The bittersweet chocolate cake and ‘Pisang Gulung’ (banana roll with caramelized peanut and fresh bananas) were my favorites. The chocolate cake was very rich and had a chocolaty thick liquid in the center…mmm mmm good. And the ‘Pisang Gulung’ was a superior crepe-like authentic Malaysian desert.
The feast we had, and the 10lbs I gained, was the invention of mastermind Chef Peter How, who is, not only exceptionally brilliant, but also surprisingly delightful.