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Fans go bananas for grilled fish and sushi

06-25-2010 08:47 BJT

There is good reason to head to Tongli Studio this summer, besides the nightclubs White Rabbit and Kokomo, now that a new fusion restaurant, whimsically named BananaFish, has opened for business on the third floor. With an innovative pan-Pacific menu, a reasonable selection of New World wines and beers, and very affordable prices, BananaFish is set to become a Sanlitun staple.

Diners enjoy drinks and a night view from the third floor of BananaFish.(Photos by Zou Hong and Qi Zhai)
Diners enjoy drinks and a night view from the third floor of BananaFish.
(Photos by Zou Hong and Qi Zhai)

Barely two months into its soft launch, BananaFish already has a loyal following. The early diners may have been drawn to the 20 to 50 percent discounts the restaurant offered during its opening phase, but the regulars keep coming back for its great food, good value, friendly service, and casual classy atmosphere.

BananaFish bills itself as a "Pan-Pacific Grill" and its menu features Chef Richard Chen's inspired creations, which reflect influences from California to Japan, and Korea to Southeast Asia. The restaurant specializes in two main fares - sushi and grilled meats.

The sushi is decidedly more Californian than Japanese, with predominantly creamy textures and slightly sweet flavors. Diners rave about the "Three Kinds of Life" (38 yuan) - three different combinations of tuna, salmon, avocado, and crab roe, beautifully presented in splendid summer colors. Other creative notables on the sushi menu: Sea Tale (banana and tuna), Matador (crab, avocado, cucumber, and beef), and Mango Lover (a "dessert sushi" made with avocado, cranberries, banana, and mango), all 38 yuan each.

Waiter serves grilled kebabs to diners.
Waiter serves grilled kebabs to diners.

The grilled menu presents a panoply of choice for skewer lovers. Everything from whole fish to banana cubes is grilled at the restaurant's Robata grill, an open vertical cage holding hot coals, surrounded by white sand where skewers are staked. (It's quite a sight but sitting at the counter is a little too warm for comfort). There is something primitively gratifying about watching seafood cooked on an open flame.

Not to be missed on the extensive list of grillables is the mackerel (18 yuan), a juicy fish that melts in the mouth. Because the fish is cooked whole "standing" on its side - away from direct flame - it retains its moisture and does not burn. The Olive Flounder, at a modest 58 yuan, is surprisingly the priciest item on the menu but well worth a try.

The special skewers section of the menu has delights in store for serious carnivores. The B'lish'ious (15 yuan) is a daring combination of lamb wrapped around salmon, cooked to savory richness. The beef & banana and beef & pineapple skewers (10 yuan each) yield unexpected dashes of sweet after each tender bite of meat. Another winning sweet and savory dish - the honey barbequed pork ribs (38 yuan), which are authentic enough to rival any served at an American rib joint.

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