Despite feeling very much under the weather, I still went to Banana Leaf with the dance team. We had such a large turnout that it was impossible to talk to the people at the other end of the long line of tables. Though the majority of the diners were rowdy, loud, and crazy college students, the servers were very friendly as they squeezed their way around the crowded, but exotically decorated place.
My friend and I started with an order of Homemade Roti Canai. It is a traditional Malaysian crispy pancake and was served with a chicken and potato curry sauce for dipping. Though I do not recall ever eating roti canai specifically, I do love Chinese pancakes, which are very similar. It was slightly crispy and very chewy. The layers were very thin and were not overly greasy but rather stretchy and doughy. I could have gone with less crispiness, but it was still flaky and good. The sauce was a generically spiced curry, with pieces of chicken and potatoes. It was very flavorful and good, but I would have liked boneless chicken pieces rather than a large piece that cannot really be combined with the pancake easily.
One fellow dancer ordered the Banana Leaf House Special Squids. I loved the sweet and boldly flavored sauce. It was rich and coated the tender squid incredibly nicely. It was clearly quickly stir fried so the squids were still very chewy and absolutely delicious. The portion was decent and everyone enjoyed it since it was the first to arrive.
The next dish to arrive around me was the Masak Shrimp. This dish was similar to the squid, except it was made with shrimp and had assorted vegetables. The vegetables and shrimp were all cooked nicely, not overdone and not undercooked. The sauce generously coated everything – a nice mix of sweet, savory, and spiciness. The spice level was actually quite pronounced but not exactly overwhelming. It is perfect for those who love spicy but perhaps cannot eat the spiciest foods from Asia.
My friend got the Banana Leaf Seafood Fried Rice and it was the least memorable dish of the night. I guess there is something to be said about the special house sauce. The fried rice was good, with shrimp and squid, but it was generic and simple. It was not burnt or undercooked and there was a decent amount of scrambled eggs. However, they could have put more vegetables or seafood in it. The portion size was quite large for $7.50 though.
I had Chow Kueh Teow, which was served in a cool little wok bowl. This was one of their signature dishes, but it was not my favorite of the night. I loved the tender shrimp and squid but wished there was more. The rice noodles had the perfect, chewy, stretchy texture and not overcooked at all. It was as al dente as it could have been. The soy sauce-based flavor was okay and not as bold as I would have liked, just simple and soy sauce-like. I would have liked more of a kick because it was supposed to be spicy. I did enjoy the crunchy bean sprouts but the eggs were mostly burnt and so had a charred taste. Clearly, this was not made to perfection, but the portion size was very large for $7.95 and at least the noodles were cooked correctly.
I do not think Banana Leaf offers anything close to fine dining but the food is decent and the portions large. It is perfect for large student groups and thus, students are a huge portion of their customers. It is amazing how many groups they can fit into the space and all the servers were smiling, which is always nice to see.