BANANA LEAF DTLA
OFFERING BOLD AND COMFORTING FLAVORS
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Indian fare of Banana Leaf, including its Culver City flagship location, so I was very excited to hear about its new Downtown L.A. outpost. In fact, there are now Banana Leaf restaurants in Culver City, Redondo Beach, Downtown L.A. and Santa Monica—with a Torrance location coming soon.
Banana Leaf is beloved for its bold and flavorful fare offering a menu that aptly finds balance between classic and progressive Indian cuisine. A specialty is the Biryani, which is a popular rice dish from South Asia. It is also the first local restaurant to offer Organic Chicken Tikka Masala.
During our recent visit for dinner, we started with lovely Vegetable Samosas. A popular yet simple Indian dish, it was perfectly done here. A fried South Asian pastry with a savory filling, including potatoes, onions, and peas, our dinner was truly off to a great start. This dish will pair nicely with Indian beers, including Taj Mahal lager beer or Bira blonde lager.
Another great and popular starter is the Chicken 65 Biryani—offered dry-fried or in sauce. It’s actually pretty rare to find this dish offered in two styles as dry in standard. We had it dry. If you’re not familiar with Chicken 65, it’s a spicy, deep-fried chicken dish that was first made at the Hotel Buhari, Chennai, India in 1965. Again, it pairs perfectly with Indian beer.
Fans of heat as well as Shishito peppers will really love the Stuffed Tindora—a popular South Indian regional dish. Think of tindora as a miniature cucumber, except in this case it is cooked and spiced. Not overwhelmingly hot, there is some heat so it goes down very well with Indian beer or even a nice glass of white wine.
Unlike the Culver City Banana Leaf location, the downtown restaurant has its own Tandoor oven, so we made sure to take advantage of it and ordered the Shrimp Tandoori, which was perfectly grilled and seasoned.
Of course, you will want to order a side of naan (Indian flatbread baked inside the tandoor oven). There’s regular naan and garlic naan but do yourself a favor and order the cheese naan as it is out-of-this-world good. It will make everything even better.
For entrees, you can’t go wrong with Indian staples such as Butter Chicken or Chicken Tikka Masala, which is overnight marinated chicken cubes grilled and cooked in sauce made with tomatoes, cream, cashews, spices and bell pepper. It is absolutely delicious here.
An off-menu standout is the Coco Lamb—a favorite dish of the previous Indian restaurant in the same space. Regulars continue to order it so you can get it most nights. This hearty coconut lamb curry is full of incredible flavor. A fusion dish, it is primarily Indian while also paleo friendly.
And just like at the other Banana Leaf locations, make sure to save room for dessert as there is the classic Gulab Jamun—the national dessert of Pakistan—but also homemade cakes, including Gulab Jamun Cake as well as Rasmalai Cake. The Rasmalai Cake is made with soft, melt-in-your-mouth flattened paneer balls soaked in a thickened sweetened milk flavored with cardamom, saffron, and garnished with nuts.
All of the Banana Leaf restaurants will introduce you to a world of bold and delicious flavors. This is comfort global cuisine done right.
Banana Leaf Downtown L.A. is located at 701 W. Cesar E. Chavez Avenue. Open daily for lunch from 11am to 3pm. Open weeknights for dinner from 5pm to 10pm and weekends (Fri-Sun) from 5pm to 1am. Call (213) 372-5590. Parking available onsite.
Story By: Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy Of: Banana Leaf