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Banana Leaf

1/2 I don't really know what to make of this place, but became curious after reading one of those tiny off the menu blurbs in the NY Times about a new Malaysian restaurant in Bay Ridge with a chef who had been at Vong and Mercer Kitchen. The components just seemed odd. And after never hearing a peep about it anywhere in any press or from anyone, it became even more suspect. During my last week living in neighboring Sunset Park, I had to check it out since it wasn't likely I'd be in the area again soon.

It's just south of the BQE, tucked in that little old-timey strip rife with Irish bars. I was amused by the restaurant's subtitle, Malaysian bistro. Highfalutin'? We were the only diners, and it quickly became apparent that their business is made up almost exclusively of take-out orders. And there's the weird dichotomy. The neighborhood seems to view this upwardly mobile, aspiring above hole-in-the-wall Chinese, as a take-out joint. Yet terms like foam and coulis do not appear on most chop suey, fried rice menus. The plates are artfully arranged, carefully garnished, sauces are dabbed and drizzled. Presentation is a big part of their thing, which obviously wouldn't translate in a cardboard container. And the menu's not terribly Malaysian, there was some roti canai, beef rendang, rojak, nasi lemak and the like. But there were also Vietnamese pork chops, Thai noodles and curries, as well as Japanese flourishes. And to be honest, the food was pretty average, but it tasted better to me because they were really trying to do something different.

The desserts were what really gave me a kick. They had a separate dessert menu, implying they take that course seriously. Chendol and bur bur cha cha were present, but I went for the innocent sounding banana parfait, primarily because kueh was listed as an ingredient. I'm crazy obsessed with those gummy colorful layered confections. A triangle of banana cake came positioned on top of three pastel keuh wedges, topped with homemade peanut ice cream and streaked with chocolate sauce. So bizarre, but so satisfying. I'm afraid this place won't make it, it's in a weird spot and I don't know that they're pushing their unique take on classics hard enough for anyone who would be interested to take notice.

Banana Leaf * 6814 Fourth Ave., Brooklyn, NY

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  1. I think Banana Leaf recently closed, which is kind of sad even though I only visited once.

    October 15, 2006

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