The Asian Kitchen in The Shade of the Banyan

Assagao, Goa: Set in Assagao, Goa under the expansive shady branch of a three-hundred-year-old tree is this unique Asian kitchen, The Banyan and thus so aptly named. The original old Goan house that existed here has been given a facelift and the surrounding gardens brought back to life.
As you step in through the grand intricately carved wooden doors of The Banyan you notice a wonderful amalgamation of Indonesian and Thai design with a hint of Goan architecture. The eclectic yet uniquely harmonised collaboration of styles was the idea of local architect Christopher Gonsalves. The house itself is painted in hues of grey and white with wooden accents. The rattan furniture, true to its Balinese form has been lifted with colourful cushions, low tables and sofas to create a relaxed and casual dining atmosphere. But it is at night that this place truly comes to life with its subtle lighting and a Buddha right in the center of the restaurant. There is a small but quaint waterfall in a corner next to the private dining area for groups, and if you are willing, then do go and look for the resident terrapin named – Oogway (Like the Kung Fu Panda). The bar area is perfect for those gathering with friends for drinks and snacks with its high tables, but the pièce de résistance must be the back wall with a collage of wooden carved chests with hidden writing on them, if you can find it. The owner Tejpal Singh Gandhi’s hand-carried unique wrought iron lanterns and other knick-knacks from Bali help complete the look of this restaurant.
Tejpal, a third-generation restaurateur with more than forty years of experience, is the brainchild behind The Banyan.  He is very well known in Pune for his authentic north Indian cuisine restaurant ‘The Great Punjab’ which opened in Koregaon Park thirteen years ago, with the recent addition of their Baner branch eight years ago. Tejpal tells us, “I always wanted to have a restaurant in Goa as I have such fond memories of going to school and growing up in this amazing state, it is an integral part of who I am.” Having eaten in all the best restaurants in the UK and travelled extensively in the east, the seed of The Banyan was planted, and just like the branches of the Banyan, the menu grew and covered all the flavours of Asia.
Like the venue itself, the menu at The Banyan covers an array of dishes from various parts of Asia and was thoughtfully compiled by consulting chefs Ajit and Victor. From their small plates comprising of items such as Stir Fried Lotus Stems, Tofu Tangsuyuk from Korea, Krispy Konjee Lamb, a favorite among the locals, to one of their signature dishes Son in Law Eggs.  However, what is not to be missed is the vast array of Dim Sum on the menu, with different types of skins made in-house and with their own dipping sauces.  All the sauces are made fresh using ingredients from The Banyan’s kitchen garden all mounted on a wall. There is something for everyone here from Spring Vegetables with Garlic & Coriander, Zucchini, Leek & Shitake Mushroom to Prawn & Cilantro Har Gow or the other Prawn and Chicken Sui Mai, from Chicken and Water Chestnut to Spicy Black Bean Beef Dumplings but to name a few.
One must try The ‘Baos’ –a type of steamed, filled bun, you can choose to have it stuffed or open and there are so many variations as to the fillings and the preparations. To name but a few, another signature of the restaurant is the Roast Duck Baos or Adobo (Pork Adobo topped with Lettuce) or Garlic Beef (Beef Tenders sautéed with burnt garlic & coriander topped with mint Mayo). In the stuffed variety of this, The Banyan has introduced some local flavours with the Goan Sausage or you can just go for the Pulled Pork if this is your meat of choice.
In the large plates there is a lot to choose from, such as the famous Tempura with a choice of vegetables, Prawn or Chicken, Cha Gio (Vietamese Spring Rolls), Char Siu Spare Ribs – done in a Cantonese style to Beef Negimaki (Rolled Sliced Beef with Scallions in Teriyaki sauce).  If this doesn’t fill you up, one can move on to the Soups. The ‘Slow Boat to Thailand’ is the unique signature dish here – It is a steaming pot of aromatic spice laced broth served with exotic vegetables, meat or seafood and dumplings. The idea behind this is to be your own chef, you simply dip, cook and eat or sip it the way you want. The Banyan is the very first restaurant to introduce this to Goa.
Another new introduction to Goa is the bowls – a meal in one.  One can order from Thai Firsher’s Noodles, Chili Ramen with choice of veg or non-veg to The Banyan’s own version of the Burmese Khowsuey served very differently.  No Asian restaurant would be complete without a choice of curries; Jungle Curry, Sambal Seafood or Chicken, but the Beef Rendang is a must try signature dish here if you are looking for something different from the regular Massaman or Thai curries.  Moving on to the main plates you are again greeted with a large choice from all around Asia. Pal Sam Tot (Steamed Fish topped with stir fried mushroom, zucchini, chili peppers in a tamarind sauce) or something as simple but flavourful as Stir Fried Chinese Green.
Last but not the least, there are the desserts, traditional desserts done with a twist such as Khao Tom Mad (sticky rice cooked in coconut milk wrapped in Banana leaf and steamed) or Thap Thim Krop (Water Chestnuts rubies served in chilled coconut milk) or their signature Sweet Dim Sums with an assortment of fillings. But the best thing to beat the heat in Goa is their uniquely flavoured Gelatos, which would be just the perfect thing to finish off your meal.

April 28th, 2017

Posted In: food

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