Banana Leaf Modern Thai
101 East Main St.
Mason, OH 45040
|Hours:||Fri – Sat: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sun-Thurs: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
|Price Range:||(Dinner prices)
Appetizers: $6 – $16
Entrees: $8 – $30 (most things are in the $18 – $27 range)
Dessert: $6 – $8
Drinks (non-alcoholic): $2 – $4
The building that Banana Leaf Modern Thai is located in (at the corner of Mason-Montgomery and Main St./42 in downtown Mason) has been a number of things over the years, all of them never seeming to last for very long. Which is why we felt the need to visit them soon for fear that by the time we got around to it they may be gone.
A Thai restaurant in downtown Mason is one of many things the poor city needs – more culture, restaurants and places to go in general. For what it’s worth, the landscaping around the building is pretty neat and worth seeing if you are passing by.
As we walked up to the building from the rear parking we saw a little Asian man picking at the plants around the back door, then hurry into the building. We would come to learn that he was the owner and chef, and that he grows some of the herbs he uses just outside the restaurant.
Unfortunately we made the mistake of going on a Saturday for lunch – which means dinner only menu and prices. The menu had a fair mix of options on it, a sampler which was a combination of multiple starters, soups, wraps and rolls. For entrees there are specialty items such as the Banana Leaf Pizza and Filet Mignon Panang (Filet Mignon topped with Panang curry) which range from $16 – $30, the curries ($15 – $19), “steamed and folded” which included dishes such as Warm Glass Noodle Salad ($15) and Spooning Shrimps ($12), fried dishes ($8 – $19), grilled and smoked dishes ($10 & $15), noodles ($15 – $17) and of course dessert ($6 – $8) and drinks. They have alcoholic drinks too, but we didn’t see/get that menu. Normally I wouldn’t name prices like that, but the range on the menu is so much that it didn’t fit well in our info-box above and I felt it needed more description.
We decided to start with the Banana Leaf Sampler which was chicken satay, spring rolls, summer rolls and peking duck rolls. It also came with a variety of sauces to dip them in, such as peanut and hoisin sauce. All of which were okay, but they really needed the sauces to make them good. We noticed while eating them too that the Peking duck rolls were rolled up in flour tortillas – which made us begin our questioning of how authentic Banana Leaf is.
We certainly don’t mind fusions or non-authentic foods, but to really get to know a culture you need to taste what their food is really like, and by their food I mean the foods eaten in the homeland. I can guarantee you when we were in China and had Peking Duck, it did not come with flour tortillas with which to roll it in (the rolling material they did come with is, however, still a mystery to me). It may be that Mexican/Latin cuisine has influenced Thai cuisine over the years, but somehow I’m doubting it. But, I digress, the duck rolls did taste good, and that is very important as well.
For entrees I got the Pad Thai – my general baseline to judge Thai restaurants against each other – and Adam got his favorite Masamun Curry. The spiciness of each dish is made how you order it – so we both said “very, very spicy.” I think Adam’s actual words to the waiter were ‘Melt my face off.’ We’re mutants – we love spicy stuff.
The Pad Thai is a noodle dish, stir fried with eggs, peanuts, tofu, bean sprouts, green onion, chicken and sauce. The sprouts, carrots, red pepper flakes and peanuts came on the side, as well as a lime. As far as spiciness goes – it was a let down, it felt more like a 2 (out of 10) than the 7-10 I was expecting. I suppose I was lucky that it came with extra peppers on the side. As for the Pad Thai’s flavor – it was good but felt like it was lacking something. The chef came out just as we had taken the first bites of our food and told me that squeezing the lime on it was the key and would enhance the flavors greatly. To me it just made it limey, which was good, but didn’t fix the “somethings missing.”
While we had him, we asked the chef about his history and complimented the fantastic job they’ve done on the interior and exterior decorations. He explained that while he was trained in Thailand by a famous chef, when he moved to the US he worked as a landscaper until he had the money to open up a restaurant. (Which explained the wonderful landscaping) He told us that Banana Leaf served very authentic Thai food – which I like to hear but I still wonder about certain items (like the tortillas and the Banana Leaf Pizza I saw on the menu).
Back to the food!
Adam’s Masamun Curry was delicious, but again underwhelming on the spicy. It came with very fragrant jasmine rice on the side. The Masamun Curry contained beef, coconut milk, potatoes, peanuts, onions and of course masamun curry. I admit I liked the flavor of his curry a lot better than my Pad Thai. We both agreed that while both dishes were good, they weren’t great and didn’t really justify the high prices. I’ll happily pay $15 for a Masamun Curry or Pad Thai but it better be better than the $9 ones we can get elsewhere. Banana Leaf was about on par with “elsewhere” so far.
We did decide to splurge and order two Bubble Teas, as it’s not a drink we often get. We were first introduced to it by our Chinese teacher (in China) who explained to us that it’s a popular thing in mainland China as well as in Taiwan – and that it is usually made with sweetened black tea, milk and tapioca pearls. But, of course, Banana Leaf is different.
The flavors of Bubble Tea you can choose from are Original, Mango, Honeydew or Taro. We tried to get Mango and Taro but they were out of the Mango, so we got the Honeydew instead. Banana Leaf makes their Bubble Teas with green tea, flavorings, and tapioca pearls. We really, really liked these and they were probably our favorite things we had gotten thus far (maybe a bit too sweet, but not intolerably so).
Then it came time for dessert – I got the coconut crème brûlée and Adam got the lychee ice cream. The coconut crème brûlée came placed back into the coconut – a nice surprise – and was very delicious. The waiter told us the coconuts were hand cut and scooped by the chef and that while it was labor intensive it was worth it. [Update: The coconut crème brûlée does not appear to be on the menu anymore.] The Lychee Ice Cream was a single, but somewhat large scoop and came with a lychee, blueberries and a raspberry. These ended up exceeding the bubble teas as our favorites at Banana Leaf. Small portions for the price, but they were absolutely fantastic.
As I was taking pictures for the review, I tried to be as discreet as possible as to not be noticed. But, alas, I was noticed by the server. He invited us to take a look around upstairs and take pictures of the decor – which you can find on our Facebook page. Banana Leaf gets some definite points as the most stylish restaurant in Mason. Luckily there wasn’t anyone seated upstairs so we could freely take pictures, but I still hurried which resulted in some of the pictures coming out blurry.
If the appetizers and entrees were just a little better, we would have given Banana Leaf a 4 plate rating. We will likely go back to Banana Leaf and try some of the less traditional items, but the draw is mostly the desserts and bubble tea.
How have your experiences been at Banana Leaf? Was this review helpful? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Verdict: A Nice Place, But First Try Lunch & Desserts
If you go to Banana Leaf, try it for lunch – and if you like it then you can justify the dinner prices. Banana Leaf is a slightly expensive restaurant, and probably a nice place to visit with your friends or on a date. The decor is great, the service is quite nice, and the bubble teas and desserts were fantastic, but the prices need to come down or they need to step up the quality of the appetizers and entrees.