Name: Banana Leaf Restaurant and Café
Address: 240 -250 City Walk Canberra City 2601
Ph: 02 6248 5522
Hours: Monday – Saturday 10.00am -10.00pm
Indian cuisine is one of the staples of eating out. We have all tried at least some of the many disparate styles from across that billion strong country, because who doesn’t love a curry from the subcontinent?
And yet, right next to India is the island nation of Sri Lanka, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, and the food from there is much less known. So an opportunity to sample this similar, yet still unique cuisine should be grabbed with both hands.
Banana Leaf Restaurant Café provides this opportunity. Not to mention, southern Asia is renowned for vegetarian food, so what better place to start Meatless March?
Banana Leaf is a fairly generic looking restaurant, with just too many tablecloth-covered tables crowding the split-level floor. It certainly isn’t modern, but it was comfortable enough.
While the focus of the menu was, indeed, mostly Sri Lankan, it was also mildly schizophrenic, with a number of Australian “bush tucker” style dished thrown in for good measure. Why anyone thinks that Arnhem Land barramundi with lemon myrtle and Dorrigo pepper belongs on a menu next to a dish called Lomprisht is beyond me, but that’s what they have here. The Sri Lankan dishes had a lot more pull.
A vegetarian Pan Roll was a gentle curry wrapped in rich, flaky pastry, then crumbed and fried. It was sort of like a spring roll wrapped in roti, garnished with an exciting hit of crisp fried curry leaves.
While there was a large and varied range of mains, the most interesting were a selection of carbs and curries. Platters included a choice between rice, hoppers (crispy shells of dough, sometimes with an egg in the bottom), pittu (a tower of flour and coconut pebbles), or Kouut Rotti (strips of roti tossed with egg and vegetables).
My love of eating with my hands helped advise my decision, so I went for the hoppers. The vegetarian curry was full of flavour, but not a lot of heat. Instead the heat came from some coconut and chilli sambal, a delicious extra hit on top. There was also some sweet, spiced onion. Everything was good by itself, but it was better combined.
There were a number of ways to eat this dish, but my personal favourite was to wrap everything up in the hopper and bite into it. Fun, interesting, and wonderfully messy.
For dessert, curd and treacle. This was an incredibly simple dessert, just a thick, sweet and sharp yoghurt drenched in wonderfully unctuous syrup, but it was delicious. It’s something to try at home.
The wine list was decent, if not particularly exciting, and the service the same.
At the end of the day, this was a solid and enjoyable vegetarian meal, and I would go back. Sri Lankan food is interesting and worth trying, but it’s not going to take over from its bigger neighbour any time soon.