Thursday, May 14, 2015

Pan-Asian offerings and Cantonese specialties abound at Banana Leaf, a locally owned restaurant tucked inside a popular Cary strip mall. Seasoned chef/proprietor Hon Lai, a soft-spoken native of Hong Kong, enjoys cooking a diverse array of Asian offerings. 

Consider Japanese shrimp noodle soup, Korean-style spicy chicken wings, Thai grilled beef or Vietnamese seafood triple delight, to name a few. Begin your dining experience with Malaysian coconut soup, which serves two people, an order of crab Rangoon or chicken lettuce wrap. The fried dumpling with Thai sauce is also a solid starter.

Reliably good noodle-centric dishes include vegetable lo mein; hot and spicy chicken chow fun; and Malaysian noodles with shrimp, chicken and pork. Casseroles such as salted fish and chicken with eggplant and sliced pork belly with preserved vegetables also keep things interesting.

Even straightforward Chinese-American classics benefit from chef Lai’s unique interpretation. Try the savory General Tso’s chicken, shredded pork with garlic sauce or pepper steak with onion.

While all the options are well executed, the house specialties category is where chef Lai’s talents are brought to the forefront. Case in point: Hong Kong-style spicy salted prawn delivers on its promised piquancy. The same goes for Szechuan-style sliced fish and black pepper lamb, which will leave your lips tingling. Then there’s the crown jewel of the menu, Peking duck, a rare find in the Triangle area. It’s wise to call ahead to check the availability of the duck entrée.

Banana Leaf’s expansive dining room provides plenty of seating for guests, whether you choose a traditional four-top or a larger round table with a lazy Susan in the center. Vibrant, yellow-hued walls and bamboo ac-cents provide a distinctly modern Asian atmosphere. 

Servers are friendly, efficient and eager to please. Don’t hesitate to ask your waiter or waitress for recommendations regarding spice levels and off-menu items (fried oysters, for example). 

Weekday lunch specials are priced under $7, making the midday meal easy on the wallet. Lunch entrées are served with spring rolls and fried or white rice.


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