I have a terrible story to tell with this restaurant review. As you all know, I've spent a year living in Taiwan and during the course of the year I've made many wonderful friends from all around the globe. Luckily enough, some of those friends were based in Vancouver and we've been hanging out ever since. However, a friend from abroad had decided to visit the Vancouver chapter of awesome, but he became sick while visiting. Long story short, he wasn't feeling very well and asked us for a light and non-greasy place to eat. As the resident foodie what did I suggest? BANANA LEAF. One of the heavier and greasier restaurants in Vancouver. WHY. I am a terrible person.
Banana Leaf, oh dear. Hahaha! My family and I go to the one located on Broadway. =) Banana Leaf is one of the more decorated restaurants in Vancouver winning multiple restaurant awards for "Best Asian" and "Best South Asian" in The Georgia Straight, Vancouver Magazine, Westender, Courier and Where Magazine. In fact, they have so many awards stickers you practically can't see through their window. It's sort of reminiscent of those old fashioned suitcases that have all the stamps pasted on the outside showing where they've been. Only their restaurant suitcase is plastered with accolades from varying years. =)
As with many of the places I've reviewed in Vancouver, I've been going to this restaurant ever since I was little. My parents are on friendly terms with the owner and I've grown up eating their roti. Although the waitstaff has long since changed, the decor, the food, and the bustling atmosphere has always remained the same.
The decor of the restaurant is really colorful and casual. The waitstaff are attired in Malaysian inspired uniforms, the walls are painted bright colors, and there are a myriad of "artifacts" from Malaysia hung up on the walls and displayed on the counters. The waitstaff are all polite and courteous, but because the restaurant is always so packed and busy they may forget about you. Don't be shy in asking for refills of water!
Now, onto the meal.
|Chicken, Pork and Lamb Satay|
The second appetizer my family always, always orders is satay. The simple, grilled, unassuming satay is declared on the menu as Malaysia's most signature stall food. Tender little morsels of meat that are marinated, skewered through, and lovingly grilled to perfection. Even though they look quite easy to make, mastering the art of creating the perfect satay is deceptively difficult. Since the pieces of meat are so small, its difficult to cook the satay "just right." Oftentimes, restaurants over or under cook the satay just leading to a terrible eating experience. Some restaurants even "cheat" when it comes to satay and boil the skewers first. This is a big no, no. It kills the flavor and alters the texture of the meat.
From my experience the satay at Banana Leaf has always been grilled to perfection. The meat has always been tender and well marinated. The flavors of the skewers lean towards the sweet side and the flavor is counterbalanced by the spicy peanut sauce they're paired with. Always a staple and very delicious.
|Sambal Green Beans|
|Hainan Chicken Rice (1/4)|
As my dad was born in Singapore, his heart and stomach have an instinctual calling and craving for Hainan Chicken. At Banana Leaf you are given the options of ordering a quarter, half, or whole Hainanese chicken. Although I have a slight feeling that Banana leaf doesn't prepare the chicken in a "traditional way", which is very time-consuming and laborious, it is so, so, so good. Traditional preparation involves slowly simmering your chicken, on the lowest heat, in a broth of chicken and pork bones, and topping off the broth only when needed in order to concentrate the flavor, up until the chicken reaches the correct internal temperature.
Mmmm. As I said the chicken served at Banana Leaf is especially tender and flavorful. Although its served cold I'd still order it on a rainy day because its so delicious. However, I have a feeling if you order a quarter of Hainan Chicken you'r more likely to get a higher ratio of majority bone pieces to meat pieces.
|Rendang Beef Curry|
I'm going to ruin this dish for you now. My friend told me that every time she orders it she's incredibly excited, but when it arrives it looks like hot diarrhea in a dish. So she doesn't eat it. THANKS GURL. I'm not sure if I can eat it anymore either...
|Hainan Chicken Rice|
Usually this type of rice is served as a side dish to the above mentioned Hainan chicken rice and that's probably where it got its name from "Hainanese Chicken Rice". The rice has been imbued with the oil and flavor of the Hainan chicken. The rice is created by using a different soup stock than the chicken was created in, resulting in a slightly oilier rice and a highly concentrated chicken flavor. In fact, I think in some places chicken rice is known as "oily chicken rice."
Now overall Banana Leaf is one of my favorites and one of the established "Southeast Asian" food places in Vancouver. Dependable, tasty and reliable there is almost always a crowd at Banana Leaf during mealtimes. I would recommend making a reservation if you're dead set on eating here. I highly recommend Banana Leaf for all y'all who are visiting Vancouver and want a good place to eat, they can back up all those awards in the window. HOWEVER, if you and your travel mates are ill...please don't come here. >< LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES. ><
Price: 2.5 out of $$$$$
Kid Friendly: Yes! They have highchairs and booster seats.
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