Oh hello, old friend. Newbies to the city might fail to understand the flood of delicious memories that a name like Banana Leaf evokes. Yet this new addition to the brand is run by an entirely novel and innovative management team who have transformed it, and for the better, too. Could it be the smiling face that greets you as you enter, or the wall of quality wine that flanks the glass doorway? It could also be their palm-themed island bar, brimming with fiery homemade concoctions. But the main question here is: Is their grub the real deal?
If Thai Market were a person hanging out in the heart of Canton Place, it would undoubtedly be the hottest one. And we mean that as a literal compliment. Featuring a good amount of heat (and portion size) on a lot of the dishes, the chefs have attempted to stay as true and generous as possible to Thai culinary heritage. We’re pleased to say that after eating for almost three hours, almost none of the classics have been localized, so you’d best be prepared for an authentic explosion of flavors.
With the weather changing its course, we started off with a meat-heavy yet classic appetizer: roasted pork neck (RMB58). When dipped in the tamarind chili sauce, the charred, tender pieces did not disappoint.
Given that the kitchen closes at midnight, we chose to move at a slower pace, ordering their signature Dungeness crab in yellow curry (RMB598/700g). While we would have loved more spice to take it up a notch, the chore of pulling out silky morsels of meat kept us busy for a while till the next course: farm chicken green curry (RMB88).
This piquant curry is enough for two, with plenty of green beans and chunky pieces of thigh meat. Remember, spice levels can be adjusted, so it’s not just for strong palates. (Tip: if you don’t like chicken skin, ask for it to be removed prior to serving.) Don’t miss the pad thai (RMB88) – this immensely yummy version is one of the closest we’ve had to Thai street vendor versions, and comes loaded with jumbo tamarind-glazed shrimp and moist chunks of chicken. Speaking of fruit, the mango sticky rice (RMB68) and coconut sago pudding (RMB32) is well worth the extra calories, with the knack to sweeten up a hearty meal.
Come 9pm, the restaurant comes alive with a three-piece band that love to interact. There’s plenty of back and forth banter, and everything from Thai and Hindi (Sheila is in the house!) hits to Mandarin and English favorites. All in all, we’re well sated, we’re smiling, we’re singing and we’re sipping flamingly hot cocktails with cool, devilish names like tom yamcello and Thai spicy (RMB88).
Who’s going: Spice junkies, pad thai fanatics, those who like to say Thairiffic (or Thairible?)
Good for: Hot Asian stuff
Nearest Metro: Tancun (Line 5), Exit A
Open daily 11.30-1am/Kitchen closes at midnight
See listing for Banana Leaf Thai Market.
[Images by Marianna Jose for That’s]