The Banana Tree:

Large and Popular Thai Restaurant on Canal Road

By Brian Baxter

You might justifiably ask why I am reviewing and recommending this very spacious and already successful Thai eating place. The answer is simple and based on the assumption that many readers of the Mail are non Thais. The restaurant is often crowded but on two recent occasions that I have been there, I was with one farang and two Thais and we were the only foreigners. On a second, with two Thais, I was ‘alone’ except for a quartet of four Americans nearby.

And yet the menu is given clearly in English as well as Thai and the friendly and efficient waiters speak some English and the bands which play through the evening mix plenty of western music along with some popular Thai songs. It is clear that the management do not actively encourage foreign visitors, possibly on the grounds that they do not need to. The business card has details only in Thai, except the name and there is no promotional material available, nor a web site. A tad complacent? I guess so.

Still, I suggest you go along and check it out. It’s worth the trouble. Prices are very fair, the ambiance is pleasant and the music (about which later) is first class. The area, across the upper floor, is large with seating I would think for around 100 customers. Much of it is made up of large tables for as many as sixteen, although there are a number for four people. It attracts many good natured groups of youngish Thais, celebrating birthdays or University successes or who knows what? The attraction is the relaxed atmosphere, the good value and the ready availability of whisky and mixers at reasonable prices on the drinks menu. There are also wines available and a range of soft drinks and local beers, with a large Singha beer costing 80 baht. If I had to summarise the overall impression it would be to describe it as a more casual version of Mo’C mo’L, but with equally good food and lower prices.

As mentioned the music is a main attraction. They change throughout the evening, with an attractive quartet and male vocalist playing until 9 p.m. This is quieter and gives way to a new group and another excellent singer (female) for the next hour. From 10 p.m. the temperature and volume of the music rises with yet another good vocalist and the same group. Conversation if you are in the direct line of sound can get a little trickier. Still a couple of hours for dinner, between around 8 and 10 seems adequate. In truth it is not somewhere for a quiet meal a deux, but great fun for a small group. Or even a large one! It is a busy place but there always seem to be tables available.

The menu is comprehensive and even has a few Japanese dishes on offer. I had the sashimi salmon on two different visits and it was perfect. Basically it is Thai food, with super fish and some of the best stir fried morning glory I have ever tasted. A friend ordered the deep fried shrimp cakes but I must say that they looked enormous and very solid. Second hand info suggests they tasted o.k. Ditto for the deep fried chicken pieces. They offer a range of desserts, mainly based around ice cream.

Given the volume of business the service was quick and the food steaming hot. Difficult to fault at around 300 baht a head, with beers, for a full evening meal. You’ll find this venue at 89/9 Canal Road. Coming into town it is on the right a little past the former Best Western Hotel, now called B2. If you head up Huay Kaew Road and turn left at Canal Road you will need to make a U turn about four kilometres along the road. The Banana Tree is a large building with a prominent sign giving the name in English and Thai. It has white roof and stands in its own attractive garden and with a large car park. The phone numbers are 053 020101 and 081 9529899. They are open every evening until quite late.


Steamed Fish a l’Orange

Despite the rather grand title, this is an easy way to present steamed fish for family or guests, but rather than the more usual steamed fish with lemon, this is with orange. You will see that this is a very simple dish, and you do not even have to squeeze the oranges. The best serving suggestion is on one of those fish-shaped serving dishes with the candle underneath.

Ingredients                   Serves 4
Fish fillets (cod or any white meat) 1 kg
Cooking oil                            4 tbspns
Onion, chopped                    2 medium
Garlic, minced                        4 cloves
Ginger root, grated                     1 tspn
Orange juice concentrate          1/2 cup
Coriander leaf chopped           4 tbspns
Soy sauce                             2 tbspns
Cracked black pepper to taste

Cooking Method

Heat wok over high heat and then add oil. Stir-fry onion, garlic and ginger root in hot oil 5 minutes. Stir in juice concentrate, coriander, soy sauce and pepper; bring to boiling.

Clean wok. Add water and heat to boiling (enough to reach 1 cm below steamer rack). Arrange fish in heatproof serving dish. Pour mixture over fish. Place serving dish with fish on steamer rack. Cover wok and steam about 10 minutes or until fish flakes when tested with a fork.

Transfer serving dish to table and serve with steamed rice.