When you walk down the U District's tiny stretch of Bavaria on Northeast 40th Street, you hardly expect to see a Thai restaurant within the idyllic, German-inspired building. On that block, there's the College Inn and the College Inn Pub. Banana Leaf Lounge wears its outcast hat well, but certainly doesn't stray from the Ave's exhausted Thai-restaurant mold, with its well-dressed wooden decorations, decent prices, and typical curry, noodle, and soup offerings.
And if we had a dollar for every Thai restaurant in the U District, we could probably open one of our own. Or at least we could ask for an extra order of Banana Leaf's popular Thom Ka soup, a well-crafted mixture of lemongrass, coconut milk, and other delectable spices that make our sinuses feel free.The outrageously cheap happy-hour menu--cash only--knocks some dishes, like the spicy stir-fried drunken noodles sprinkled with vegetables galore, down to $6 a pop, and draws in practically anybody craving Thai food. And we know why: The portions are huge, so expect to take home leftovers.
Thankfully, the prices and decent food--try any of the tangy, spicy soups--make up for the service; the wait staff could probably benefit from taking a lesson or two from Seattle-area Jeopardy! whiz Ken Jennings' super-fast, super-accurate technique.
Overall, though, besides the happy-hour prices, Banana Leaf is unremarkable. We'd get a kick out of giving a nod to Gwen Stefani and saying "This shit is bananas. B-A-N-A--" But oh, forget it.