Sunday, January 27, 2008

Banyan Tree Thai Cuisine

(We're sorry to note that Banyan Tree closed a while ago.)

I've been to Banyan Tree several times now, and I was sorry to see that the menu keeps getting smaller and smaller. However, I think they've settled on a nice, minimalist menu that suits a neighborhood restaurant. You won't find anything unusual or exotic on the menu, but what's there is reliable, well-prepared Thai food.

Crab Rangoon
For appetizer they have good spring rolls, although the sauce is a little marmeladey. (The sweet chili sauce is better.) Then there are the Rangoons (pictured above) which are very nice, especially if you like a high filling-to-wrapper ratio. I myself prefer more crunch because the filling is so rich, but these were awfully good. They are, as at Lamai's, meatless. The filling is cream cheese, carrot and green onion, and yet even my carrot-hating friend really finds this Thai version the yummiest of rangoons.

Tom Kha Gai is a soup I find irresistable everywhere I go, and it is great here. It's a very sharply flavored soup of chicken, ginger and coconut -- with a lot of citrus from lime juice, lime leaves and lemon grass. Lamai recommends having it at her restaurant with a scoop of rice, and she is right. The soup is so rich and strongly flavored that even though it is a medium spicy, my tongue sometimes starts to get that numb novocaine tingle. The rice ameliorates that without taking anything away from the wonderful excessive experience of flavor. (So I advise asking for a side of rice in any Thai restaurant when you order this.)

The entrees are limited and pretty standard for a Thai restaurant, but every thing we've had has been good. We went for the Banyan Tree Fried Rice, which, though plain, turned out to be exceptional -- fried rice with chicken and shrimp, seasoned strongly with yellow curry. It's got a good kick at medium.

In the past we were really happy with the Green Curry, which is no longer on the menu. We are told that if they are not busy and have all the ingredients on hand, the cook will make some special dishes by request. My only wish is that they had a little more in the way of vegetables, and maybe offered a Yum or salad. The Pad Woon Sen (pictured above with spring rolls) comes close, but is still pretty plain. (I bet you could ask for a lime wedge, though. That's exactly what it needs....)

They are now open for lunch from 11-2 Tuesday through Friday, which I am glad of, because their simple menu is ideal for a quick carry out. Their dinner hours are 4-8 on Tuesday through Thursday, and until 9 on Friday and Saturday.

Banyan Tree Thai Cuisine, 1001 East Mount Hope Avenue, Lansing. (At the corner of Mt. Hope and Pennsylvania -- in the same building as Korner Kitchen.) 517- 482-0939.


Erich Zechar said...

I made some Tom Kha Gai myself tonight. Not as good as Lamai's, but very tasty and simple to make. Coconut Milk, Garandal, Lemon Grass, Lime, Chicken, and Mushrooms! Mmmm

The East Side Food Geek said...

Oh, yeah. I freeze up ice cube trays of coconut milk, lime and lemon juice, and keep bags of each in the freezer. (Also, one cup containers of broth.) It's great for making a quick soup or sauce of various flavors.

(The Rev'd. Canon) Dr. Jack Lumanog said...

Is this place open? I've never heard of it before. I'm still also relatively new to town (1.5 years here so far) so I'm still trying to find some good Pad Thai. Taste of Thai on Grand River in EL isn't so bad for lunch. The price is right, the service is friendly and the portions are perfect.

The East Side Food Geek said...

Banyan Tree appears to be closed, although I haven't been down there to double-check for myself.

Pad Thai....

Well, I'm partial to Lamai's, which tends to be on the sweet side. Bangkok House tends to be on the salty side. Lamai runs a buffet, so if you happen to come in when the pad thai is out, or looks stale, you can just order it.

I've reviewed both here (click on a "thai food" label) to find the reviews.