Saturday, October 23, 2010

A hotel restaurant to go out of your way for, Banyans Asian Cafe, Wilmington, NC

I'm usually leaving hotels with restaurants to go out and find other restaurants not in hotels so you can imagine how juxtaposed I was to be walking INTO a Ramada in search of good vegan vittles.  There weren't a ton of options and our time was limited so we ended up almost across the street from where we were staying.

Banyan's was empty when we got there, admittedly later than the usual dinner hour but that always makes me wonder how fresh everything is.  Needlessly here.  The place has a woody planty green and brown motif with some kind of big mats under the tables and chairs.  It's a nice and inviting, comfortable place.  We sat near the front window, hopefully to serve as a beacon to other wayward vegans but no one joined us that evening.

Our waitress was friendly and happy and knowledgable about the food.  My vegan wishes were understood and I felt that this wasn't going to be a meal where I worried about fish sauce creeping into my dishes.  I love it when the response is, "Vegan?  Ok sure, no problem, been there done that."  Ahhhhhh.

I ordered the Coconut Curry which I ordered with Seitan and my buddy wanted to only eat fried rice.  I would have split it with him but he wanted egg so I ordered the Pad Thai with Tofu.

For a starter we split the spring rolls.

They were served with a sweet chili sauce and a chili vinaigrette, both medium on the spice index and nice to dip the fried crunchy rolls into.  The rolls themselves where crispy and not greasy at all and had some flavor and really didn't need anything else but hey, it's there right?

The Pad Thai was excellent and if I had a fork instead of chopsticks I'd have shoveled the whole dish into my mouth in hugh swirling twirled forkfuls.  The pasta was cooked nicely, just past al dente and not yet mushy and it had a rich flavor and the tofu had a very nice chewable yet not chewy consistency.

A little bit of Srirracha never hurt.  Crispy sprouts and peanuts and a squeeze of lime.

Don't look at the eggs but isn't that an amazingly colorful plate of fried tofu rice?  No, I didn't taste it.

My Coconut Curry, nice heat but I threw in the Thai Chili Flakes anyway
The coconut curry was so incredibly coconutty and creamy and ... wait, what's this?  Tofu?  I thought, ... oh Miss?!  Yes, she thought the cook had put in tofu instead of seitan and she'd be right out with the seitan. Just mix it in.  OK.  One day everything will go right with a meal I have but this wasn't like I was finding chicken in the food or anything.  Just silliness.  The seitan was a nice addition and I wouldn't have known it wasn't house made if I hadn't asked.  I think pre made seitan works out well most of the time if it's cooked and this was.
A closeup of my curry.  Notice the seit... uhm ... the tofu?

There we go, just dump in some seitan.

And let's double the amount of stuff we can take home and dump in the rest of the white rice.  Why do I eat white rice?  Well, there wasn't any brown served here.  That should be changed.
Any place that actually uses seitan in their ethnic cuisine gets a few points right off the bat, even if they don't actually put it IN the dish the first time around.  I'd go back here in a heartbeat and highly recommend Banyans.  There are a few other places in Wilmington I'd like to try as well but this definitely gets a "go back to" rating.

Banyan Asian Cafe on Urbanspoon

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