Go Bananaz Cafe
Critic's star breakdown
- Food: 4 stars (out of five)
- Service: 3.5
- Atmosphere: 3.5
- Overall: 4
I've seen the Asian fusion concept stretched to its limits before, but the owners of the new Go Bananaz Cafe in Farragut may have performed a little one-upmanship with their debut menu featuring the cuisines of both Southeast Asia and — wait for it — Bosnia. The menu touts the latter as "Mediterranean" fare — and indeed, that's not an inaccurate designation — but many of the dishes are actually common to the once-Yugoslavian region.
The Grub Spouse and I arrived at the eatery, which was recently a short-lived Ethiopian restaurant, and took a seat in the modestly sized square of a dining room. The predominant African motif has been replaced by subtle Asian shadings, but overall, the earthy flavor of the space is low key from a thematic standpoint.
We were greeted by a server as well as by owner Jimmy Lim, whose Malaysian roots play heavily in the Asian portion of the menu, which is prepared by former Rouxbarb chef J. Kai.
At first glance, the Asian appetizers seemed familiar: spring rolls, fried calamari, cream cheese wontons. We decided to try the wok-seared dumplings to start the meal off.
The Spouse staked a claim on the Mediterranean portion of the menu, which at the moment offers a narrower selection than the Asian side. Items include a doner (gyro) and cevapi, which is a beef sausage sandwich served on grilled pita bread.
The Spouse chose the multi-item dinner special, featuring a burek pita with meat and onion, a paprika (a green pepper stuffed with meat and rice) and sarma (sour cabbage stuffed with meat and rice). By default, the latter two are made with what the menu humorously refers to as "beef meat," although on our visit, Bananaz had eighty-sixed it, so The Spouse settled for chicken instead.
Signature Asian meals include your choice of chicken, beef or shrimp prepared in a half-dozen styles, including teriyaki, Schezuan, Mongolian and stir-fry. Also available are about a dozen rice and noodle dishes (including pad Thai), Chinese-style entrees like General Tso's chicken and sesame chicken, and several Southeast Asian curry dishes prepared with your choice of protein.
On Mr. Lim's recommendation, I went with the rendang beef, which is slow-cooked in spices. He even brought out a sample for me to taste, and that sold me on the selection.
Sadly, our appetizer never arrived. When our entrees were served, Mr. Lim confessed that he had forgotten to place the order, and we declined his offer to proceed with it, focusing instead on the plates before us. However, we enjoyed our meals immensely. The pita is more of a puff pastry than a traditional flatbread, but it was delicious nonetheless, as were the stuffed pepper and cabbage. I think they would have both been heartier with beef than chicken, but I particularly enjoyed the tart cabbage. Oddly, this meal also came with frozen crinkle fries and heavy whipping cream for meat dipping.
The full portion of rendang beef was very tasty and satisfying, and was complemented by a large serving of steamed white rice. For dessert, we shared a tempura banana, which was deep-fried crispy sweet on the outside and hot and molten in the middle.
Service hiccups and a lack of beef meat aside, I still recommend giving Go Bananaz a try, even though the menu suffers from an identity crisis.
© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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