A hot new Italian Bistro at Market City

Jo McGarry
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Friday - August 08, 2008
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The fresh steamed clams appetizer is a hit at Banana Leaf Italian Bistro at Market City
The fresh steamed clams appetizer is a hit at Banana Leaf Italian Bistro at Market City

Jo McGarry is on vacation; This story is written by Kerry Miller.

Banana Leaf Italian Bistro has barely opened its doors at Market City Shopping Center and is already busy filling hungry bellies with a wide range of Italian favorites.

After about one month of business, co-owner Ken Wong is pleased with what’s happening.

“Very busy. So far, so good,” he says.

Wong also owns Banana Leaf Pasta Café at McCully Shopping Center. The cafe location, he said, gets a steady crowd and offers a more casual setting than the bistro. The bistro has room for large groups with its 60-seat dining room, including a few tables with seating for eight or so in the back, and the rest filled with several tables for four. The décor is fun and friendly, with glass rose paintings adorning the walls and a quite spacious dining room. Wong co-owns the bistro location with his wife, Cindy.

“I like the parking,” Wong says of Market City. “This is a good location.”

He should know, considering he owns a Sumo Ramen shop on the lower level of Market City (as well as four others on Oahu), just below his new digs.

Speaking of his new digs, besides the parking, the food is, of course, the real reason to patronize Banana Leaf Italian Bistro.

“Our menu is variety, choice,” says Wong, who is proud to say that it features a photograph of each dish.

Popular on the appetizer list are the steamed clams and crab cakes. Fresh from a local market, the shellfish delights are served in a garlic white wine sauce or light tomato broth. The crab cakes are juicy crab meat with wasabi aioli, pesto and cocktail sauces and served with wasabi. Other starters to choose from include the Italian prosciutto ham (served with melon), Caprese (tomato and mozzarella cheese and mesclun greens served with balsamic vinegar and olive oil) or the chef ‘s selections, a daily arrangement of five items chosen by executive chef Timmy Yee. If you’d rather start off with a salad, try the tomato salad served with the restaurant’s own house strawberry dressing and basil pesto sauce.

Ken Wong co-owns the new Banana Leaf Italian Bistro
Ken Wong co-owns the new Banana Leaf Italian Bistro

On the entree list for both lunch and dinner, Banana Leaf offers its own unique pizzas - seafood, margherita, and a chef’s pizza that changes daily.

Some of Banana Leaf ‘s signature pastas include spaghettini alla carbonara (featuring an egg creamy sauce with pancetta bacon and black pepper), fettuccine alla granchio (juicy king crab legs and crab meat in a light cream sauce, served with fettucini pasta) and many others.

If you’re in the mood for a notso-pasta option, try one of Banana Leaf ‘s tasty risottos, steak or chicken dishes. The chicken and mushroom risotto features Italian-style rice simmered with calamari in a garlic olive oil white wine sauce. A popular seafood dish is the trio plate with king crab legs, fish and shrimp in a shrimp sauce. The pollo alla piccata is a tasty chicken entree featuring chicken breast sauteed in a caper lemon butter sauce and served with vegetable and pasta. The beef/steak menu includes osso buco alla Lombardy (a braised veal shank Lombardy-style simmered in a red wine tomato sauce, served over fettucini) and Wong’s suggestion, the veal chop.

Hopefully you’ll save room for dessert, because the Banana Leaf menu includes some familiar Italian favorites, including French cheese pudding, gelato, panna cotta, tiramisu, mini cream puffs, fruit sorbets and a chef selection.

Wong and wife Cindy co-own the 60-seat bistro with Sam and Fiona Lo. The bistro is BYOB until October, when Wong expects to secure a liquor license. It’s open daily from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, and dinner Monday through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. For more information or to make a reservation, call 735-8833 or visit www.bananaleafhawaii.com.


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