claudia kwan/for metro vancouver
Locations in Fairview, Kitsilano, and the West End
Lunch for two, including tax, tip, and drinks: $73
On top of having good food and good service, successful restaurants have to continually find ways to keep it fresh for customers. The tasting menu seems to be the latest trend to hit menu stands across the region. In contrast to small nibble-and-share offerings, tasting menus are supposed to give you an accurate sample of the best dishes a restaurant has on either side of the appetizer and entree divide.
The more-than-decade old Banana Leaf now serves up six courses of Malaysian food for $25 per person, with the option of adding wine for another $8 at its Fairview location; the menu may be slightly different at the other two. The appetizer plate of salad, a chicken satay skewer, a spring roll, and fluffy roti canai bread may seem modestly sized at first, but it’s just enough to whet your appetite for everything to come.
The papaya in spicy soup has a potato-like texture, and the mild sweetness works well with the chili, lemongrass and ginger soup. There’s just enough seafood in the soup to have me really hankering for the tiger prawns and scallops in gulai sauce, which, in contrast, doesn’t have a lot of bite.
The rendang beef is tougher than expected, and hasn’t picked up much curry flavour — a few more minutes in the stew pot might have been needed. But the sambal green beans, eggplant and tomato are perfect, crisply fried and sweetly savoury with a touch of brininess from dried shrimp and chili paste. We round lunch off with fried banana and vanilla ice cream.