After hearing all these posts about Banana Garden (whose Chinese name on their menu literally translates to: Penang Fine Foods Village), I was a bit undecided. The ketchup in the pineapple rice mentioned on this board didn't seem to bode well, as the Thai places in Singapore flavor the rice with some sort of spice mix (probably lots of tumeric - for the yellow color), and the rice is fried with pineapple, dried shrimp, occasionally Chinese sausage, and topped with meat fluff. But some of the dishes at Banana Garden did sound pretty good.
One of my buddies who lurks on this board decided to drag me there after procuring transportion. And on the whole we had a pretty good meal there, although I spent quite a bit of time nitpicking through the dishes. We're still going to try to lobby for Penang Seafood to open a branch here.
The 3 of us were sharing, so we didn't get any of the soup noodle dishes because of the diffulity with all the liquids. I was intrigued by the prawn noodles, which isn't served by any other Singapore/Malaysian place around here; so I might try it next time. We opted for the street foods - self contained noodle and rice dishes.
Roti Canai was very good - light and fluffy and the curry sauce was right on. I'm more used to the flat version, but I liked this one a lot.
Chicken satay is a notch behind Tracy Garden - needs more peanut and peanut flavor in the dip and the meat wasn't as intensely marinated. But still decent and not a bad deal for this part of the world.
Char Kway Teow (fried flat noodles) was disappointing - they used really thin flat rice noodles when the dish calls for noodles that are at least 3X as wide. The traditional ingredients I'm used to include bean sprouts, eggs, chinese sausage (lup cheong), cockles, fish cake. They left out the cockles and sausage but had prawns and squid instead. The dish was also on the bland side. For that x-factor, they need to use lard that is used in the traditional version, but I'm not counting that against them - no one around here seems to do that.
Indian mee goreng was fine - (of course it could use a bit more chilli for heat) - nice subtle tomato flavor. Adding minced mutton would have made it better. The version at Singapore Malaysian is more out and out with the ketchupy flavor; overall I think they are comparable despite the different interpretations.
I thought the nasi lemak was yet another disappointment (no bay area place seems to be able to get it right). At least it's less of a disaster than other places. The rice needs much more pandan and coconut flavor and that's central to the whole dish. The fried anchovies that came with it were fine, but I like mine dry and fried with peanuts, not with peanut on the side. That way the nut oils get to mingle with the fish. The chicken curry that accompanied it was also good.
The Hainanese chicken rice wasn't too bad in my book, but my buddy rightly pointed out that the chicken was overcooked - usually the bones should be still bloody and the flesh cooked through. My big gripe was that there was no chilli sauce with garlic and ginger - a key part of this dish. The rice did have good chicken flavor.
I almost ordered the bak kut teh - a broth with long cooked spareribs and a bunch of herbs and spices. But I looked at the pictures in their menu and their version had tofu in it - not what I'm used to. I guess I'm just ultra picky when it's my birthright.
I'll post again when I go back for more, as they have a number of dishes not on the menus at Singapore Malaysian and Tracy Garden.