100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 64, Soft-Shell Crabs at Banana Leaf

Photo by Troy Fields
This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

The new location of Banana Leaf still has a wait in the evenings -- just like the original location across the street -- but a spiffier area in which to do your waiting, complete with bucolic waterfall and flat-screen TV, which was curiously showing a women's softball game on my last visit. The entire interior, in fact, has been given a beautiful face-lift that's virtually erased all traces of the old, roughshod Chinese Sichuan Cuisine.

Here now are handsome mahogany booths covered with palapas and a green wallpaper that approximates the tropical look of bamboo. There are private rooms now -- something the first Banana Leaf didn't dream of having -- and even a cozy bar, although Banana Leaf still encourages its patrons to indulge in its same generous BYOB policy (there's no corkage fee). And because both the dining room and kitchen are larger, the menu is, too.

But my favorite thing off the menu is still the pattaya-style soft-shell crabs, battered and fried until puffy -- and I've yet to find a mealy, frozen crab here -- then garnished with a merry confetti of mango, bell peppers, onions and cilantro in a barely sweet sauce that's tempered with a kick of red pepper. Wash them down with a Torrontes or a less sweet Riesling from home and enjoy.

The list so far:

No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac
No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's
No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets
No. 97: Caprichos mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito
No. 96: Pineapple-wasabi burger at Lankford Grocery
No. 95: Farmer's MKT Pizza at Phoenicia's MKT Bar
No. 94: Potatoes at Money Cat Brunch
No. 93: Breakfast tacos at Sunrise Taquito
No. 92: Hot dog at Tacos D.F.
No. 91: Avocado gelato at Frozen Cafe
No. 90: Chicken sandwich at JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers
No. 89: Beer-battered asparagus at Hearsay
No. 88: Honey Badger omelet at Kraftsmen Cafe
No. 87: Pastelitos de carne at El Jalapeño
No. 86: Pancakes at Union Kitchen
No. 85: Wild boar and crab pizza at Boheme
No. 84: Breakfast croissant at BB Donuts
No. 83: Pretzel at Anvil Bar & Refuge
No. 82: Short rib sandwich at Shepherd Park Draught House
No. 81: Grilled shrimp po-boy at Pappadeaux
No. 80: Dahi puri at Shiv Sagar
No. 79: Aporreado at Los Corrales
No. 78: Oxtail francobolli at Aldo's Cucina Italiana
No. 77: Tonkotsu at Cafe Kubo's
No. 76: Spinach danish from Angela's Oven
No. 75: Pupusas at El Petate
No. 74: Pheasant dog at Sammy's Wild Game Grill
No. 73: X-Tudo burger at Friends Pizzeria
No. 72: Esparragos gratinados at Tintos
No. 71: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen
No. 70: Geisha dog at Happy Endings
No. 69: Oyster po-boy and gumbo at Goode Co. Seafood
No. 68: Ceviche at Sirena Seafood
No. 67: Caldo de mariscos at Taqueria Arandas
No. 66: Banana pudding at Pizzitola's
No. 65: Fried catfish and gumbo at Cafe-A-La

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Location Info

Banana Leaf

9896 Bellaire Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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