Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Smiling Banana Leaf (Highland Park)

I've been really impressed by the quality of the Thai food in Pittsburgh.  Not to knock on Columbus, Ohio, because I do love the city, but during the six years I lived there, I never was able to find satisfying Thai food.  Before moving to Pittsburgh, I had assumed that Pittsburgh would be similar to Columbus, but its solid offerings of ethnic foods have been a wonderful and pleasant surprise to me.

One Thai restaurant I had heard plenty of nice things about is Smiling Banana Leaf in Highland Park.  I finally made it out there a couple of weeks ago on an invitation by Burgh Gourmand, who had recently befriended the owner, Tookie.  The six of us in the group came on a Wednesday night and sat out on the patio, thanks to which I was able to get some nice photos of the food.  Since we're not particularly picky eaters, we let the chef choose for us.  The food came fast and furious, and I will just let the photos do the talking, but trust that everything was just absolutely delicious and I'd most definitely come back again in a heartbeat.

Crispy Calamari at Smiling Banana Leaf
Crispy Calamari
"Fried to crispy golden brown perfection served with sweet chili sauce"

Fresh Spring Roll at Smiling Banana Leaf
Fresh Spring Roll
"In a rice paper hand roll of rice noodles, lettuce, carrot, & basil leaves served with
special brown sauce & crushed peanut"

Thai Samosa at Smiling Banana Leaf
Thai Samosa
"Lightly fried pastry stuffed with potatoes, carrot & green peas; served with Thai
special cucumber sauce"

Som Tum at Smiling Banana Leaf
Som Tom
"Shredded green papaya mixed with fresh garlic, chili pepper, green bean, tomato,
ground peanut juice"

Steamed Dumplings at Smiling Banana Leaf
Steamed Dumplings
"Thai-style pork & shrimp steamed dumpling; served with sweet & sour black soy sauce"

Mango Chicken Salad at Smiling Banana Leaf
Mango Chicken Salad
"Marinated grilled chicken mixed with mango, cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, carrots;
served with spicy chili lime sauce"

Chicken Satay at Smiling Banana Leaf
Chicken Satay
"Grilled and marinated chicken on skewers; served with peanut sauce & cucumber salad"

Spicy Green Bean with Tilapia at Smiling Banana Leaf
Spicy Green Bean with Tilapia

Pumpkin Curry at Smiling Banana Leaf
Pumpkin Curry

Pad Kee Mow at Smiling Banana Leaf
Pad Kee Mow (Spicy Noodle)
"Wide rice noodles stir-fried with Napa cabbage and choice of meat in a spicy basil sauce"

Curry Fried Rice at Smiling Banana Leaf
Curry Fried Rice
Thai curry fried rice mixed with green peas, onion and egg

Sweet Mango with sticky rice at Smiling Banana Leaf
Sweet Mango with Sticky Rice

Fried Smiling Banana with Ice Cream at Smiling Banana Leaf
Fried Smiling Banana with Ice Cream
The fried bananas had hints of coconut, perfect when paired with coconut ice cream

I'm really glad to have had the opportunity to enjoy Smiling Banana Leaf this way.  Those who have read my previous posts on Thai food may remember that I'm a sucker for curry and that is pretty much all I ever order at a Thai restaurant.  This family-style meal allowed me to sample a wide variety of the menu items at Smiling Banana Leaf, some of which I would not have otherwise ever ordered myself.  Aside from the curry, I was especially pleased with the Pad Kee Mow, but I would highly recommend everything we were served that night.

A couple final observations:  Smiling Banana Leaf occupies a small white building at the northeast corner of Bryant Street and N Euclid Avenue.  There is really not much of a sign out front so it helps to know what you're looking for.  I didn't get a picture of the outside of the restaurant, but here's one provided by the restaurant itself. The interior of the restaurant is quite small, with seating for maybe two dozen or so customers.

Finally, when you go to Smiling Banana Leaf, DO NOT park illegally on N Euclid just north of Bryant where the yellow paint marks the curb - even if you're just popping in to get takeout.  Cars are not allowed there for a reason:  Buses that run along Bryant Street turn onto N Euclid and may ding your car if it's in the way.  Twice during our meal someone parked illegally in that spot to pick up their take-out order, and both times, within a minute, a bus needed to get through.  I'll just say that there were some close calls.

Restaurant info:
Smiling Banana Leaf
5901 Bryant St, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
(412) 362-3200
On the web: http://www.smilingbananaleaf.com
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Smiling-Banana-Leaf/186209418056787
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/Smiling_Banana
Bonus: BYOB

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