Malaysian, Take 2

Sunday was day 2 for me for the film festival, and also Easter. Nothing wrong with Easter folks, but it can be quite irritating when one is trying to eat that day. Most everything is closed, except for chinese restaurants and the movies. So I guess for me, it all worked out. I had to trek from 2nd to 16th, and had to stop at Chinatown again. This time, not only because I wanted to, but also because pretty much every other food establishment was closed. Since I had been to Penang, I’d been thinking about Banana Leaf, a competitor around the corner. I decided to give it a shot.

From the outside, Penang and Banana Leaf actually look quite similar. They both have really long skinny industrial-like windows. But once you get inside Banana Leaf, it’s a whole other story. The place is not industrial at all. It’s very island-y, slightly Swiss Family Robinson, with some quite crudely painted drawings on the wall. And an awful lot of fake rocks everywhere. There’s also a sushi bar, which is the other big difference. But aside from decor and the sushi, the menu at Penang at Banana Leaf are essentially the same. And when I say essentially, I actually mean exactly. Down to the order of the sections of the menu, and the order of the dishes themselves. I found out after a bit of reading that Banana Leaf was started by “refugees” from Penang. I didn’t know that refugee meant carbon copy the menu. One would think that maybe some of the menu items would be switched, you take some out, you add some in, you move it about. But no, not here. The menu is crazy identical, down to where it says “Please ask server for advice before you order!”

I ordered the tofu satay for an appetizer. It is tofu that is cut on the diagonal and fried. Then they stuff it with blanched or steamed (not sure which) sprouts and julienned cucumbers. It’s all toped with a peanut-based satay sauce. It was great. I love tofu, cucumbers, sprouts, and satay sauce, so no surprise there. It was the first time ever eating this so I couldn’t say how it compares to the Penang version.

For the main dish I ordered the prawn mee. It was also freakin cold on Sunday, so after all that walking, I wanted something hot and steamy. I was torn between that and the asam laksa, both spicy noodle soups which I’d never had before. I asked the waiter for advice and he recommended the prawn mee. I think maybe he thought that was the “safer” choice and assumed that I wanted the “safer” dish. I actually just wanted to know which one he would have eaten. Oh well. So prawn mee is a “Banana Leaf’s favorite!” I bet on the Penang menu it says prawn mee is a “Penang’s favorite!” It has egg noodles, sliced pork, shrimp, a few bits of a mysterious green veggie, and bean sprouts and comes in a spicy shrimp broth. When I first started eating it, it seemed a little bland. But as I ate more, it took on a much stronger flavor with each bite. And it has a very strong and pungent taste and smell, that’s very shrimp-y. The soup also has a strange gritty texture, as I think it is shrimp paste based, and that must be the dissolved shrimp paste. I liked it, but I wasn’t crazy about it. The pork tasted weird so I stopped eating the pork after a few tries. The shrimp were good though. I wouldn’t get it again though, not because it was bad, but because there are so many other things to try on the Banana Leaf menu.

The staff and service is good. They’re very attentive and are quick to fill your water glass. The food also comes out quickly. Since I’ve been to Penang so many times, I think I’ll just have to try Banana Leaf a bunch more times! Considering that the menu, pricing, and location are essentially the same, and the decor really doesn’t sway me one way or the other, I’ll just have two Malaysian places to choose from when I’m in Chinatown. Nothing like a little friendly competition.
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One Response to

Malaysian, Take 2
  1. E says:

    Strange that the menus are identical! I’ll have to check this out. I love Penang, so it sounds like this place must be lovable as well.

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