Sunday, 2 December 2007

The Banana Leaf - Fast and Informal

This entry is courtesy of Cairns Eye contributor Narelle Muller. I read her review in the Nov21-27 Edition and was struck at how close her thoughts were to my own. I ate there about 6 weeks previous to her and had a very similar experience. So it is a bit of a cheat to publish this, but in my opinion why rewrite what is already well written. Thanks Narelle for your contribution....

When you're offering quality meals at reasonable prices, speedy service is really the icing on the cake. You can tick all the boxes at The Banana Leaf ofnthe Esplanade. Billing its fare as modern Asian cuisine, The Banana Leaf has put many eggs into multiple baskets.

This is all part of its beauty, as there are almost no restrictions. In one dinner party, several pockets of the globe can be visited.

Someone may have a Thai seafood salad ($16.90), while another diner might opt for Chinese-style sweet and sour pork ($22.90). A Japanese favourite, miso soup ($3.50), could precede chicken breasts with ketchup ($19.90). It's all mix and match to your personal preference with no hint of deterioration in authenticity or quality.

Positioned on the site of former Hans Cafe, which in its day called itself a purveyor of authentic Asian cuisine, The Banana Leaf is suspiciously similar in almost every way bar title. This is no bad thing however, as Han's had a reputation for serving excellent food and its new operators are following suit.

Daily specials are posted on The Banana Leaf's street-front chalk board and certainly draw a crowd. On this occasion, hoe mok thalay, seafood in coconut milk and Thai herbs ($19.90), stir-fry prawns and snow peas ($19.90) and deep fried whole chilli fish with special sauce ($25.90) all sound and look mouth watering.

Yellow chicken curry ($16.90), a mild dish served with Thai herbs and potato, is a huge hit with young diners. Stir fried pork with cashews ($16.90) turns out a surprise in terms of deliciously subtle seasonings, tenderness of meat and crispness of vegetables, cooked just right. Spicy beancurd mapo style ($15.90) is a heart-warming soup-style tofu dish with minced chicken.

All require a separate order of rice, which is cheap enough at $5.50 for a large serve or $2.80 for a small portion. Steamed rice with coconut milk is also a snip at $5.90.

Freshness is the first word that springs to mind when describing The Banana Leaf's food. Flavour-packed, yet with clean tastes, each dish is artfully presented.

Heavily staffed, there's no question of waiting too long for anything. While you may have to ask for things like chopsticks or water, requests are met promptly and service is polite. Be sure to check your bill though as on this occasion we were charged for something we didn't have.

Not much has changed in terms of decor since its Han's days. Most diners opt for the pavement to catch the sea breeze but inside is slick and up-to-the-minute with glass, stainless steel, blonde timber, subtle grey artworks and an overall feel of understated chic.

Positioned in the centre of the tourist strip, fellow diners tend to dress down but the surrounds are classy enough for those wanting to mark a special occasion. Whatever the time of day hunger strikes, The Banana Leaf offers good, fast, informal eating.


Anonymous said...

Well it looks like Banana Leaf has moved to the restaurant "dead zone", corner of Spence and Grafton (last occupied by the ill-conceived Stumbling Goat). Oddly, this new location still has too-high rent, while being blocks away from the action. A massive mistake that will be obvious when they close up in >6 months.

Chuckie said...

So, the question remains... is this ambitious move by the Banana Leaf the beginning of the end of this great Cairns eatery... or perhaps the next exciting chapter in the development of a decent restaurant strip down Grafton St.?? C'mon Kitchenslut... think we deserve an update!!

CBD Resturanteur said...

Banana Leaf's opening on Grafton and Spence is doomed to failure. This location has been a "dead zone" for restaurants, with the most recent failure the "Stumbling Goat" (a name and concept stolen from a successful restaurant elsewhere, btw).

The biggest problem for this as well as many Cairns area restaurants is the greed shown by landlords toward restauranteurs - despite the failure of the Goat, rent on this new Banana Leaf location was RAISED to a reported $12000 per month!


Banana Leaf has been crowded at lunch due to their current specials, but given the rent situation they can't afford this same largess at dinner. Which means they can't attract diners "off the beaten path". It's a restaurant death spiral - let's hope it doesn't take down the Esplanade location, too.

Dutchie said...

Well, they are still there and usually have more people than I would expect, but if the rent is indeed 12k then maybe the Esplanade restaurant is keeping this one afloat. I wish them all the best as the food is consistent, portions generous and staff friendly.

ashlea said...

personally will never eat there again after finding a roach in my chicken stir fry.
their kitchen backs straight onto the bins for the whoole building so should not be suprised.
DINERS BE WARE!! beacuse they had no apologies and no care for their mistakes, rather just trying to stop other diners finding out my situation.
very disapointed and discusted

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