Banyan Tree Restaurant
504 Ramsay Way, Kent
“Narm khuen hai reeb thug,” is a Thai proverb meaning “Seize the opportunity,” which is exactly what Gabe Wiborg and Porntip (Yuie) Helseth did when they turned a successful farmers’ market enterprise into a full-service restaurant.
Banyan Tree had humble beginnings at the Fremont Sunday Market, where Thailand native, Yuie, and fiance, Gabe, began selling Thai desserts; desserts led to salads dressed with Yuie’s exclusive recipe. Salads led to stir-fries; stir-fries led to sates. The dream of a restaurant began and became a reality four years later.
Banyan Tree welcomes you with its warm and uniquely appointed interior. Amber walls are adorned with three-dimensional, abstract brass pieces which represent Banyan leaves. Tall creations serve as a divider and are made from the same gold-colored alloy; they portray lilies.
Fresh garden rolls are created with fresh herbs with crispy tofu, cucumber, carrot, and thin rice noodles, hand rolled in a rice wrapper. Garnished with a carrot flower, they are served with homemade Thai herb dipping sauce. The distinct taste of cilantro in the condiment contrasts with the mildness of the spring roll.
Marinated in coriander, cumin and lemon grass, skewered shrimp satay are grilled and served with tart lime sauce. They’re served in the authentic Thai style, heads intact. Another starter, meatball lettuce wraps, are pork meatballs marinated in garlic, cilantro, shallots and green onion. Intended as finger food, they’re nestled in a lettuce wrap and garnished with peanuts and julienne ginger.
A house signature entrée, Pla Nieng Manao, is a whole sea bass, steamed and presented on a hot plate. A layer of lime slices blankets the fish. Served with lime vinaigrette infused with chilis, the delicate fish flavor comes alive as the dressing evolves from sweet to tart and ends with heat. Other main courses are classics such as Cashey Nut chicken and Swimming Rama.
Tom Yum fried rice is seasoned with lemon grass, hand-squeezed lime juice, kaffir lime leaf, galangal, and cilantro. Chili paste adds a subtle bite. Though recommended with prawns, it proved a satisfying accompaniment to the sea bass. Other side dishes are Garlic Fried Rice, Phad Thai and Rama Noodle.
A signature vegetable and seasonal offering, Phad Pak Boong Fai Dang, is morning glory stir-fried with fresh garlic, chili, black bean and soy sauce. Textures contrast; crisp-tender combines with delicate. Its subdued flavor is pleasantly complemented by the seasonings.
Dessert was firm, green bananas encased in wonton wrappers and fried until crisp. This final course is accompanied by coconut ice cream, and drizzled with honey and chocolate sauce. As an alternative, try the sticky rice with mangos or black rice pudding.
Yuie prides herself on serving authentic Thai food, unadulterated by American influences. She has perfected regional techniques and incorporated generational food and cooking methods, creating unique dishes.
Banyan Tree is an example of British poet, John Dryden’s observation, “Mighty things from small beginnings grow.” From farmers’ market concession to a thriving restaurant, this dining establishment is proof that, with hard work, talent, and expertise, dreams can become reality.