If anything good came out of the fire that ravaged Banana Leaves in Dupont Circle in March 2011, it was “the chance to go out and see how other restaurants were doing,” says Chiang “Michael” Goh, the co-owner of the pan-Asian treasure at 2020 Florida Ave. NW.
It took more than a year and $500,000 to bring Banana Leaves back to life in April. Fans of the original, which opened six years ago, should be pleased to find a menu that reads much like the first. The restaurant’s two primary chefs, both from Malaysia and kept on the payroll during the down-time, continue to offer tropical fruit salad tossed with garlic-lime dressing, grilled lemongrass chicken and seafood hot pot. The perfect antidote to a gray day is the rousing roti canai: flaky, piping hot “pancakes” eaten with a zesty potato curry.
The revived Banana Leaves, its 72 seats spread over two arty floors, is slightly bigger than its predecessor. The most significant design change is the sushi counter, moved from the rear to the front and expanded to seat 10 guests. Wooden signposts flagging Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Thailand and Japan --- among the kitchen’s sources of inspiration – dress the walls of the upstairs dining loft.
As before, Banana Leaves delivers its wares within a three-mile radius and for a minimum $15 order. And as testament to the neighborhood restaurant’s popularity, Goh points to the regular who called him every weekend for over a year to check in on its vital signs.