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Banana Leaf, new Malaysian in Chinatown

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Restaurants & Bars

Banana Leaf, new Malaysian in Chinatown

joypirate | Mar 30, 2006 02:54 PM

Banana Leaf
1009 Arch Street
215-592-8288
Mon-Sun 10am-2am

This place was started by a former Penang chef and I like the vibe a lot more than I like Penang’s. Probably because it only just opened and it’s not as rushed, and the servers are genuinely, really nice to you, which, admittedly, can fade with popularity. It’s in the old Serendipity space, completely different owners.

I had a bowl of the “Prawn Mee,” described in the menu as egg noodles, shredded pork, shrimp, vegetables, bean sprouts in a spicy shrimp broth. I don’t think I ever tried this at Penang so I can’t compare directly but it was very well down. The broth had an unusually dark and strong flavor for a seafood broth, a pronounced dried shrimp taste (with minimal amounts of actual dried shrimp, mind you) and some flavors dark enough to be almost coffee-like, very rich and satisfying. The spice isn’t weak either, strong yet without sacrificing complexity. At the server’s suggestion I got a mix of noodles instead of sticking with either the vermicelli or the egg, and the textural variance made for a good mouth feel.

The space itself is really nice. Good enough to bring the less adventuresome for a meal. I think I’d approach this place initially the same way I’d approach Penang, they’ve got Thai dishes and sushi on the menu (even a little sushi bar) but at first I’m going to stick with the Malaysian specialties. I think rendang dishes and curries are sort of the litmus test for Malaysian places so I’ll probably try those next.

One criticism I’d make would maybe just be small, I think maybe they need to source their shrimp better, it wasn’t bad, I just think they can find better at their same price level (based on other places in Chinatown).

I recommend this place; I think it’ll be a hit. It sort of fills a niche of sorts.

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