"New branch of Indochinese eatery succeeds in price and flavour"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
The Banana Tree chain is doing very well indeed - their newest branch in Wardour Street is William Chow’s fifth in London, and despite having opened less than a month ago it appears to be doing an equally roaring trade to the Busaba over the road. We step in to find yet another take on canteen chic; most of the tables are communal with bench-style seating, however it’s a little more industrial-looking than some of its peers, with exposed pipework on the ceiling and low-hanging lamps.
The cuisine is Indochinese, something which prompts a friend to inquire “How is it any different from Vietnamese?” It is a bit Vietnamese, and a bit Thai, Cambodian and Malay; the spices are less fiery than in Vietnamese cuisine, but more intense than Thai, and noodles, marinated meats, chili and fresh herbs like coriander dominate the menu. The wine selection here is fairly poor, but they do have teas and Asian-inspired cocktails, i.e. concoctions made with lemongrass, lychee and ginger.
Among the starters is a curious dish by the name of ‘chicken moneybags’ which beckons to be tried. They turn out to be adorable crispy bundles fastened together with a skewer, containing chicken, chopped shiitake mushrooms and plenty of coriander, served with a bowl of sweet chili sauce. The Kau Chi dumplings are moist parcels stuffed with minced pork and prawn, water chestnuts, egg and spring onion, then steamed and doused in a tangy vinegary dressing and garnished with liberal amounts of fresh coriander. The Vietnamese spring rolls contain no meat, instead the deep fried miniature rolls have finely chopped mushrooms, more coriander, egg and translucent noodles.
Then the mains arrive, or at least my companion’s Kway Teow Mee noodles appear while I am still tucking into the starters. The wok-fried dish has bean sprouts and large fleshy prawns, flavoured with soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil. When the char grilled blackened pork finally turns up it is juicy and soft, oozing sweetness and spice thanks to soy sauce, garlic, chili and palm sugar. It’s accompanied by Mee Goreng noodles, a tasty stir-fry with egg, crispy tofu and pak choy; the delay is entirely forgivable.
There are no desserts at this branch however portions are generous enough for you to not have any after-meal cravings. At £55 for a meal for two with wine it’s also a steal.
Leila reviewed Banana Tree on Mon 10 Oct 2011