My first visit to Bala’s Banana Leaf in Bangsar was almost 5 years ago when they first opened and my experience was above average at best. Over the years, I’ve been receiving comments and recommendations from my readers and followers – citing Bala’s Banana Leaf as better than my regular spot.
So Jien and I paid them a visit again last week and this week to see how Bala’s Banana Leaf has “levelled up” over the years. For a shop with the name banana leaf, there was no banana leaf in sight at Bala’s; only metal plates. Apparently, this is their new standard operating procedure post MCO.
I know many insist on using hands when eating banana leaf rice and would use the analogy of “having sex through an operator” if one were to use cutlery to work through their meal. For me, having banana leaf rice on a metal plate is a greater offence – more severe than banana leaf paper. And that was what Jien and I got at Bala’s – rice with vegetables on a metal plate.
You get three types of vegetables on rotation to go with the Pooni rice (RM7.30 per pax), and an option of fish, curry or dhal curry. The curries were alright; a tad light for my liking as I like my southern curries well-spiced and strong enough to flavour the rice. Rasam isn’t provided unless you request for it and during our visits, we had to remind them about papadam.
Unlike the standard banana leaf rice places I’ve visited, Bala’s Banana Leaf charges for their vegetable refills (RM1.50 per refill). While it may not be much, I don’t think it’s right to charge for refills when your metal plate compartments are small.
Jien and I tried several side dishes during our visits – mutton varuval (RM10 – small), chicken 65 (RM9.50 – small), fried sotong (RM9.50 – small) and Bombay chicken (RM10 – small). At Bala’s Banana Leaf, portions are smaller (read: barely enough for 2 pax) so if you’re hungry or planning on sharing with more people, it’s best you request for a larger portion.
The mutton varuval is not bad; tender, well seasoned and adequately spicy. I’d say this is better than the mutton varuval at Devi’s corner in terms of meat quality (less bones, more flesh). Chicken 65 isn’t my favourite here because they used chicken breast for the entire dish so it was dry and hardly enjoyable. Best to specify you want chicken thigh or drumstick if you’re planning to order this.
Jien likes the fried sotong at Bala’s Banana Leaf because it’s fried just right so each bite is juicy and tender. I prefer the fried sotong at Sri Ganapathy Mess though I’ll admit – at Bala’s, you can at least see the squid, if you know what I mean.
Bombay chicken would have been delicious if the chicken adsorbed the flavour and spices of the creamy, rich gravy. Also, for RM10, you only get 4 small pieces of chicken. Pretty expensive if you ask me.
Unlike other banana leaf rice places, you won’t feel “stuffed” when you eat at Bala’s. For some reason, the meals here are lighter so if you’re a small eater or dislike that “food coma” feeling after your meal, this might be your banana leaf rice spot.
Overall, I still stand my ground about Bala’s Banana Leaf. I’ve given them two more tries based on the numerous recommendations received and ordered as much recommended items as I can stomach. Is it better than my regular banana leaf rice spots? Not quite, but it’s a decent enough option if you want to explore options. In terms of value, I’d have to knock off some points since portions are smaller and they charge for refills; expect to pay between RM20-25 per person.
Food: 6.5/10 (pork-free)
Verdict: Try the mutton varuval and fried sotong, but take note of their “chargeable refills”.
Bala’s Banana Leaf
25, Lorong Ara Kiri 1,
Tel: 03-2201 7107
Business hours: 8am till 10pm