Friday, October 30, 2015

A night at Banana Leaf Sri Lankan and South Asian Cuisine, Chelsea, NYC

We had the pleasure of dining at Banana Leaf Restaurant in Chelsea with our friends Robert Brenner and his wife, Johanna Climenko. They are wonderful people and are both active in helping preserve the many places that make NYC unique. They told us that this authentic Sri Lankan restaurant (the only one located in Manhattan) was being forced to relocate because the gas in the building they are located in, has been turned off due to a leak for almost one year, with no resolution in place by the landlord. The chef Raj Perera, was born in Sri Lanka and operated his own restaurant before following his dreams and moving to the United States with his family and opening Banana Leaf. With so many mom-and-pop restaurants closing recently due to gas problems and rent increases, we were delighted to help support this one by dining there and taking photos of our meal. For the main course, we had a Seafood Lampri, which is served inside a banana leaf and is filled with specially cooked saffron rice mixed with seafood and a fish cutlet along with cashew curry, eggplant moju, seeni sambol, ash plaintains and a boiled egg. We also had the Fish Ambul Thial, which is tuna fish cooked in a slow fire with goraka (garcinia cambogia), garlic & black pepper, accompanied by saffron rice and vegetable curries. For an appetizer, we all shared Hoppers, wafer-thin bowl-shaped pancakes made with rice flour and coconut milk and served with katta sambol. Thankfully, this amazing restaurant will be moving to East 6th Street near First Avenue in the near future, but for now (until the end of November) try to visit their Chelsea locale at 227 West 28th Street (between 7th & 8th Aves).


  1. What an exquisite portrait of Banana Leaf by Karla and James Murray, photo-journalists and biographers extraordinaire of the evanescent beauty of what is really NYC. What a beautiful experience to share the Banana Leaf of our Chelsea neighborhood with our new friends and documentarians, the Murrays. Banana Leaf is rare, because, though landlord sidestepping around a building gas leak kept two Mom-and-Pop restaurants closed for many months to a year, this intrepid family will move to East 6th Street. That is not the case for neighboring 'Soul Fixins' or most of the other Mom-and-Pop restaurants and businesses forced out by gentrifying land-lords. We are so grateful to James and Karla Murray, Jerimiah of 'Vanishing New York' #savenyc, and other organizations devoted to saving the fabric of our city. Coming full circle, thank you so much Karla and James for this documentation. We so look forward to the release of your book in November, where we can get our own signed copy at Rizzoli or the Strand. (Details to follow) And God bless you Jerimiah for your unflagging efforts to keep NY New York.

  2. I must say, this photo portrait and essay is so exquisite. Karla and James, your work is an act of love and devotion. We thank you so deeply. Johanna and Bob