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Banana Leaf - Owner Raj Perera's New York-Based Sri Lankan and South Indian in Chevy Chase DC - Closed


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Spoke with the owners of Banana Leaf, a new Sri Lankan restaurant opening next to Jakes on Connecticut Ave in Van Ness/Chevy Chase.

I don't have a whole lot of information other than they tell me this will be the first Sri Lankan restaurant in the DC metro area.  It is affiliated with Banana Leaf in NYC, but the primary day to day operation will be by two guys I met who live in DC.  They expect the restaurant to open in the next few weeks with a liquor license to follow.

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Spoke with the owners of Banana Leaf, a new Sri Lankan restaurant opening next to Jakes on Connecticut Ave in Van Ness/Chevy Chase.

I don't have a whole lot of information other than they tell me this will be the first Sri Lankan restaurant in the DC metro area.  It is affiliated with Banana Leaf in NYC, but the primary day to day operation will be by two guys I met who live in DC.  They expect the restaurant to open in the next few weeks with a liquor license to follow.

They may be the first in DC, but there is already a Sri Lankan restaurant in Alexandria.

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Ok I'll bite - how is Sri Lankan food different than Indian or other surrouding countries?  I've found myself wondering the same thing on the opposite end of India regarding Nepali cuisine too (the few Nepali places I've seen open in the past couple of years seem to have very similar food to Indian or are even combo places like Laliguras in Van Ness).

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Sri Lankan food is delicious.  I'm no expert, but in my experience it's been characterized by heat (definitely on the spicier end of any South Asian heat scale) and spices that are often roasted before using, giving curries a darker color and a ... roastier?... flavor.

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Raj Perera lives in Chevy Chase, yet owns the same restaurant which has been successful enough in New York to have a go at a second location here in Northwest DC. In this particular case, it gives me optimism because it is already something of a proven entity (although I don't know how much of one).

Note also that while it is vegetarian friendly, it is not pure vegetarian.

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Just wanted to let you guys know, it's definitely open now. Perera kept being setback by inspection delays, he said. Here's my brief story on it, which includes photos of the menu. They still don't appear to have a website or listed phone number anywhere yet.

Thanks Andrew, and welcome. The menu pictures are particularly appreciated!

Cheers,

Rocks

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I agonized quite a bit about whether to write anything at all about my experience at Banana Leaf last night, given they've only been open two weeks, and if I did write something just how to describe it.  In the end I decided just to post a note and make it as straightforward and factual as I can, as a cautionary tale to those of you who might be thinking of going anytime soon before they work out their service issues.  I wish these guys all the best and I'd be very happy if and hopefully when they work everything out...to have a functioning Sri Lankan restaurant with good food in the area would be awesome.  But we don't have one yet.

At 6:25 last night (I have the receipt in front of me) I walked in and placed a to-go order of 5 items.  The pleasant guy at the back counter who took my order told me it would be 35-40 minutes.  At the time, I noticed 5 out of about 15 tables were occupied.  I went over to a bar next door and had a beer while I waited, returning to a now-full restaurant at 7:00.

For the next hour and ten minutes (yeah), I stood or sat near the back counter and had a pretty good view on how things were working.  I witnessed:

* Multiple tables trying to flag down waiters

* guy comes up to the counter frustrated that he can't get anyone to give him the check.  Complains one of the dishes they ordered never came out.

* Confused looking customer wandering around the floor with the two sealed bottles of beer in his hand that his waitress had deposited at their table, trying to find someone to open them for him

* a couple getting up and leaving in frustration

* At the peak of the frenzy when there were about 55 seated at tables, 1 or 2 dishes would come out of the kitchen every few minutes.  It was a pace that just couldn't even come close to keeping up with demand.  I don't think the kitchen could support half the tables in that space.

* The pleasant gentleman who took my order kept telling me he had just gone to the kitchen and my food was just about ready.  It never was.

* At 8:10, 4 of my dishes came out.  They said it take more time for the fifth one.  I said forget it and got my money back on that one.

* When I complained about the service, it was more excuses than apologies, which was pretty annoying.  Most striking of all, when I pointed out in response to them saying how crowded it was, that when I ordered there were only 5 tables occupied, the guy said he had to prioritize in-house orders over take-out orders.  Meaning, presumably, that orders that came in well after mine were serviced first.  I don't know what to make of that, though, since the patrons in the restaurant weren't having much better luck than I was.

*Sigh*

The menu is pretty interesting and honestly about half of what we got, I'd rush back to try again if I knew they'd fixed the service issues.  There were some really tasty fried fish spring roll type things in the appetizer platter with some delicious and unique (to me) tasting cutneys.  Another dish I really liked was kind of like a chicken curry with chopped roti all mixed together.  Good, interesting stuff you can't find elsewhere around here.  But man, they've got to fix how they deliver this food before I will ever trust them with my time again.

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Went today for lunch and really enjoyed my Lampri with lamb. It is a large portion of saffron rice, topped with a variety of toppings - spicy, sauteed onions, cashews, stewed vegetables, a hard boiled egg, a fried fish ball (kind of a cross between falafel and a salt cod croquette but with tuna), and your choice of protein.  I got the tender, saucy lamb.  Really wonderful and reasonable at $13-16 for a large meal or easy a mid-size entree to share.  They also have a lunch buffet for $10-11 with about 5 options that I overheard other diners say was good.  Worth checking out.  Also the food has similarities to Indian cuisine, but it is distinctly different.

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