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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Houston
Food
Feel
Price
6.5
6.5
$25
Malaysian
Casual restaurant

Hours
Sun–Thu 11:00am–9:30pm
Fri–Sat 11:00am–10:30pm

Bar None
Credit cards Visa, MC
Reservations Not accepted

www.bananaleafhouston.com

Bellaire Chinatown
9889 Bellaire Blvd.
Houston, TX
(713) 771-8118
Banana Leaf
Houston’s seen better Malaysian, but this is still a delicious introduction

We’re not sure why Houston can’t seem to hold onto a Malaysian restaurant for very long. And while we’ve lost much stronger Malaysian entries than Banana Leaf, this is the best we’ve got. For now.

Perhaps in a panic, it tries to make the cuisine accessible, but it shoots itself in the foot by doing so. It mutes the heat and spice of sambal shrimp and beef rendang, and the warm, welcoming staff pushes those of the Caucasian persuasion away from classics like nasi lemak or assam laksa because of their wonderful (but notoriously Anglo-repellant) fishy funk. Dishes with the most public appeal, like mango shrimp, are more expensive. Instead, insist upon tom yum fish head, and plump Hainan chicken served with rice cooked in its fat. Order the whole flounder—flounder flesh stands up best to wok cooking but is delicate enough to absorb its slightly sweet shrimp paste, and the larger bones impart moisture and flavor.

A point of great pride here is roti canai, which you can watch being shaped into large discs and tossed into the air, à la pizzeria. It’s served warm with lightly crispy edges and a soft, doughy center, and an accompanying curry sauce that is not as spicy as you’d find in Southeast Asia. C’mon, we’re Texans…we can handle spice, and a whole lot more.

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