Sunday, February 12, 2012
Banana Leaf "Take A Bite...I Dare You"
A moderately sized house located along the main strip of a college town with a bright neon sign shining "OPEN" in the front window conjures images of "happy ending" massage parlors, sketchy money loaning businesses, or psychic palm reading establishments. The Banana Leaf is none of these things. Walk up the handicap access ramp, open the door, and you are at home. Take a seat.
But don't lean up against the board where the reception desk is, you might tip it over, as I almost did. In the most gracious voice you've heard since eating at fast-paced, entitled-because-we're-here-restaurants in the last ten years comes a soft, "hii, table for two? The wait will be about 10-15 min." Like a storm-trooper jedi-mind-tricked into letting Luke and the crew go you sit down and wait. As you wait you glance around the living room where there are about seven tables. You see paintings, photos, statues, and images that will remind you of The King and Me. And the wife of the owner is dressed in eastern baggy pants like a bollywood dancer. The aroma reminded me of when I was in Scotland and had real, good Indian food for the first time; less scathing than the smell of cheap fried food, but definitely the same waft of coconuts, spices, breads, and avocados.
And then you glance at the table behind you and you see a couple drinking some kind of green juice. You ask what it is and you learn it is an avocado juice. You might get one to share with your date or you might get individual ones; in either case it is a hearty portion.
I know what I want immediately. We order and wait, talking pleasantly among ourselves while taking in the scents, the visual stimulus that beams you into another land, in another time, in another culture. When your food arrives it is surrounded by banana leafs; reinforcing the displacement of your senses and presence into another world. I take a piece of naan bread, dip into the coconut curry, take a bite, and I'm nearly there; elephants walking on jungle trails, people bathing in the river, cleaning their cloths...and then I take a sip of the avocado juice, and it happens. I am sitting on an elephant, riding through the Sri Lankan jungle. It is exotic. It is smooth and moves like mango juice over your palate and as it hits your throat it cools down any stress in your life, taking a yoga approach of relaxation right to the pit of your stomach. And you are immediately satisfied.
Do yourself a favor: travel. Get lost in Sri Lanka at the Banana Leaf. Take a bite...I dare you...