Two experienced restaurant pros combined talent to open Banana Leaf Thai +Bar in the space vacated by Bogartz Fine Artz in City Walk Sandy Springs. Opening during COVID with limited eating capacity led to Banana Leaf’s “defrost” to indoor dining and accommodating up to 30 on the patio.
Earning a reputation for its seafood and clean food preparation, Banana Leaf knows its way around fish, artistic plating, authenticity, and gracious hosting. Local nutritionist Sheryl Westerman said, “Banana Leaf’s food is all fresh: fresh garlic, ginger and herbs. The chef insists on keeping it authentic, no short cuts. For those watching weight, there are many options. Ask and they will accommodate. Jewish people enjoy good ethnic foods, Thai being a favorite. Word travels fast. I gave Banana Leaf a plug on my Facebook page. So now all my South African Jewish friends are going!”
The Sunday night we dined there, the patio was replete with lyrical Afrikaans accents and familiar faces.
Chef Woody (Awut Pengpis) was the chef at Basil, the Bangkok Sheraton Grande’s award-winning restaurant. He focuses on the new style of Thai on top of tradition with intricate menu items that are innovative and elegant. One example is serving stems of young pepper seeds versus the single peppercorn. Both Pengpis and General Manager Jobi (Supakorn Thanasongtrakul) came directly from the shuttered Bua Thai + Sushi in Brookhaven.
The patio wafted with Thai music and busy but not bustling servers, genial about explaining the “whats” of terms like galangal, Thai or Siamese ginger. The menu is very explicit about labeling and illustrating choices: No gluten, what can be made vegetarian, contains shellfish or peanuts, or what’s raw; and specific measurable degrees of spiciness: mild, medium to flat-out spicy, and the ultimate, Thai spicy. Detail is in the presentation: carved carrot flowers, sprigs and whole leaves of “this or that,” brilliant magenta orchids fit for a corsage.
What we sampled:
Som Tum (Papaya Salad) $10: Freshly mixed green papaya, string beans, carrots, tomatoes, lime juice, and fish sauce topped with ground peanuts and cabbage.
Huge cabbage leaves were left to dip into the tangy dressing. A little awkward, but who cares?
Salmon Cha Cha Cha $23: Pan-grilled salmon with galangal, kaffir lime leaves, mushrooms, Chinese eggplant, red bell peppers, long hot peppers, young pepper seeds, and basil leaves. The fish was perfectly grilled and moist.
Spicy Basil Mock Duck Eggplant: Tender eggplant sautéed with white onions, red bell peppers, long hot peppers, and mock tofu duck in a spicy basil sauce. The “faux” duck was so real I challenged its authenticity. The pounded /shredded tofu even had dimpled skin to mimic poultry. Leftovers for next day.
Gaeng Keow Wan: Green curry, coconut milk with bamboo shoots, zucchini, long hot peppers, red bell peppers, and basil leaves. This was rich and hearty with bonus florets of broccoli not mentioned on the menu.
Noted to try on next visit:
Gyoza (Japanese potstickers) $6: Pan fried vegetable dumplings.
Banana Pla Sam Rod: Sautéed chili, tamarind sauce with jumbo onions, red bell peppers, and long hot peppers served on crisp whole red snapper fillets. Touted as one of the house specialties.
Under Vegan Lovers:
Loving Hut Thai Chili $18: Mock shrimp.
Gaeng Massaman: Sweet and mildly spicy curry, coconut milk, onions, avocado, potatoes, and cashew nuts.
Noodle and rice dishes have their own categories. A full bar operates adjacent to the front door entrance.
Banana Leaf is located at 227 Sandy Springs Place. Lunch and dinner are served every day except Monday.