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"The Banana Leaf" Restaurant


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So, has anyone else tried The Banana Leaf Restaurant?

Ate there today with three friends, and we all agreed that the food is outstanding.

We went for lunch, and the place was 'take-a-number' packed. Not a lot of Occidental faces. The prime lunchtime clientele appeared to be Asians working in the nearby San Jose hightech industry. And everyone was hungrily shoveling in the delicious food.

Soup arrived automatically. When I looked at the clear broth, I thought...oh well, ho hum...another typical chicken broth. Good, I'm sure, but nothing interesting. Was I ever wrong. The flavor was positively a revelation. Listed on the menu as "tom yam soup," it was a spicy and aromatic brew of herbs, seafoods, mushrooms, lime juice and lemon grass. That bowl of soup alone was worth the trip.

For a starter, we got Roti Murtabak, homemade Indian bread stuffed with a thin layer of beef and egg, and dipped into a mild and flavorful curry sauce.

For mains, we shared:

Mango Chicken, chicken, onions, peppers, and slices of mango cooked in a mango sauce, and served in a mango shell.

Rendang Beef, with chef's special Malay curry sauce.

Malay Sizzling Scallops, with black pepper sauce and anaheim chiles.

Pineapple Fried Rice, with cashew nuts, shrimp & peas stuffed into a pineapple shell

And Malay Coconut Milk Rice, regular steamed rice cooked with coconut milk, and absolutely delicious.

This place is wonderful. I kind of hate to talk it up and thereby risk making it any more crowded than it already is.

But on the other hand, folks doing this good a job deserve all the business they can get.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Thanks for reminding me of this place, Jaymes. I haven't been there in awhile but had several nice meals there. I love the roti with curry sauce and the coconut rice, and there is much more than that. The Malay scallops sound great!

It's the only Malaysian restaurant I really know of around here; there are not too many in the Bay area as far as I know.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I have not tried Banana Leaf for comparison, but I ate at Layang Layang in Santa Clara a couple of times this year and had some good food.  Web site claims that they plan to add an east bay location.  Layang Layang

Thanks for the info. Looking at their website it looks like they've been there for only one year. Besides the upcoming expansion to the East Bay they also have a restaurant in the Netherlands! Their menu listing looks pretty extensive and interesting.

Maybe there is a trend towards new Malaysian/Singaporean/Indonesian restaurants about here--There are two places in Mountain View, now. (I've not been to either).

The Spice Islands Cafe

Address: 210 Hope St, Mountain View

Phone: 650.961.0628

Baba Neo

311 Moffett Blvd., near Central Expressway, Mountain View. (650) 903-9219. www.babaneo.com

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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When Banana Leaf opened (perhaps about 6-7 years ago?), it used to be very good and we used to go there fairly often. Unfortunately, when I visited them about 2 years back, the food had gone significantly downhill. Maybe its time to give them a visit again...

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Maybe there is a trend towards new Malaysian/Singaporean/Indonesian restaurants about here--There are two places in Mountain View, now. (I've not been to either).

Yup, there's a ton of Malaysian/Singaporean restaurants in the Bay Area. In additions to the ones mentioned already, there's the various Straights Cafes (SF, Palo Alto, San Jose, Burlingame), plus a few more in the mid peninsula (Mango Bay, Banyan Garden, Island Cafe), the East Bay (Raffles Cafe, Red Kwali, Banyan Tree) and SF (Singapore Malaysian and Penang Garden).

I haven't been to Singapore Malaysian yet but have fairly high hopes for it. I have liked my meals at Banana Leaf, though I haven't been back there for a couple of years as I'm rarely ever in that area anymore. Straights Cafe in the city used to be good (I was not a big fan of the Palo Alto version), but it went downhill a few years ago and I haven't been back since.

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Maybe there is a trend towards new Malaysian/Singaporean/Indonesian restaurants about here--There are two places in Mountain View, now. (I've not been to either).

Yup, there's a ton of Malaysian/Singaporean restaurants in the Bay Area. In additions to the ones mentioned already, there's the various Straights Cafes (SF, Palo Alto, San Jose, Burlingame), plus a few more in the mid peninsula (Mango Bay, Banyan Garden, Island Cafe), the East Bay (Raffles Cafe, Red Kwali, Banyan Tree) and SF (Singapore Malaysian and Penang Garden).

I haven't been to Singapore Malaysian yet but have fairly high hopes for it. I have liked my meals at Banana Leaf, though I haven't been back there for a couple of years as I'm rarely ever in that area anymore. Straights Cafe in the city used to be good (I was not a big fan of the Palo Alto version), but it went downhill a few years ago and I haven't been back since.

Thanks for the info Malik! I went to Straits Palo Alto a few times awhile back and was also quite disappointed by both the menu and execution. To be fair, I haven't been there in several years so I don't know if it is different now.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've been to Spice Islands (downtown MV) once, wasn't too impressed (seem to remember everything being sweet), but it might be worth revisiting.

I always forget about Baba Neo, but I want to try it sometime.

Been to both the Santana Row and Palo Alto Straights, but once each--it was pretty good, if trendy. Especially Santana Row where the bar is a very important feature.

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Is the food at the Banana Leaf restaurant(s) in California served on a banana leaf, as it often is at banana leaf restaurants in Asia?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Is the food at the Banana Leaf restaurant(s) in California served on a banana leaf, as it often is at banana leaf restaurants in Asia?

Only a few dishes, like the Rendang Beef. But it's mostly just for show, as the banana leaf lines a real plate, so it's not serving much purpose. In Malaysia, it's not unusual for small restaurants to serve you the food on just a banana leaf, with no plate in sight.

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