Banq - news/comments/reviews?
- anitab Feb 14, 2008 09:24 AM
Has Banq opened yet? I have heard conflicting reports. The website does not appear to be up (www.banqrestaurant.com) - it still contains a bunch of text about the restaurant concept (a blend of classic french techniques and Indian flavors). It sounds like a revisiting of Mantra.
Does anyone have any info about this new entry to the SE restaurant scene? Opening date? Reviews?
Ate there last night. It's open, and enjoying a mix of diners, drinkers, and oglers. I think the design is strikingly modern, yet beautiful and elegant (lots of wood, very organic). The cocktail list is inspired and diverse (the tamarind margarita was yummy and refreshing). My DC and I ordered 2 "amuse" dishes, 1 appetizer, and an entree apiece. The warm naan and spread was divine. I was not overly impressed with the duck confit amuse, but the shortribs had some interesting flavors which we could not place, but enjoyed. Didn't get a taste of the appetizer my DC had and can't remember which one it was. He also ordered the Cornish hen, which he enjoyed, despite finding it "rich." I really liked the sirloin steak- especially the starch (?) it came with, which was full of intriguing flavors. When we asked to be reminded about what we had ordered, our server was not able to fully describe the dishes, but I suppose this is to be expected on night #3. Service was attentive and friendly. We will definitely be back, especially to sample more cocktails, in the coming days. We were delighted to find the place full of our neighbors last night, so I hope it makes it as an inventive neighborhood restaurant that doesn't go the way of Mantra (although I would like more Indian influences in the menu if I had my way!).
the ceiling makes me feel like I am trapped in the gullet of a bear...not the most comfortable sensation
I personally think the design is original and great-looking.
I too expected a Mantra knockoff for most of the reasons that BostonWaitTress (welcome to Chowhound) tartly describes. But the analogy falls down once you taste the food and pay the much more modest check. The menu isn't just French/Indian fusion, which is mostly what Mantra is doing (or did -- I haven't had dinner there in a while). Banq draws fusion elements from all over Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan), mostly pretty successfully, but it isn't Myers+Chang: it's Western, read French, fine dining with an Asian fusion slant.
Starting with the Big Caveat that it hasn't even been open two weeks, I'll say:
* Prices are better than I expected for a fancy South End place. $4-6 small plates, $10-12ish apps, entrees mostly around $20-25 (a useful contrast with Mantra's moslty $30-40 entrees).
* They have at least one bartender, Steven, who knows what he's doing. The cocktail menu doesn't wow me, but at least muddles some fresh fruit and herbs, and doesn't lean too heavily on flavored vodkas. The bar space itself feels a bit cramped, especially in the corners. This is one spot where the demands of the design trumped comfort and space efficiency.
* The dining room is very attractive, soaring ceilings, pretty hardwoods, well-spaced booths. I'm frankly amazed the room isn't, like, Via Matta Loud, given all the hard surfaces. Soundtrack is that by-now-utterly-cliched series of Hotel Costes compilations.
* The wine list is a nice surprise, not overloaded with $100+ bottles. It's got geographic range, doesn't pander with a lot of familiar, overpriced Cali wines, and has plenty to choose from for under $50. Serving temperatures are currently a problem (underchilled whites).
* The complimentary "bread of the day" is a great idea: I had a couple of different Indian flatbreads with superb spreads. I'd pay for these if they put them on the menu.
* The food is mostly very good, few outright misses. They need to start preheating the soup bowls; mine wasn't, which led as it invariably does to cold soup before you're finished. That's a simple oversight to fix.
* Service is still finding its feet, to be expected in Weeks One and Two.
Overall, a pleasant surprise so far. I'll be watching to see how they fine-tune the menu (I really enjoyed almost everything I tried, only tasted a dish or two I wouldn't order again) and burnish the service. I'll also be hawking the prices; they're attractive now, but it wouldn't take a big bump-up for me to question the value.
Went last friday (15th).
Definitely trying to get the kinks out, so I won't be hard on them.
Was very surprised by the decor. Expected it to look like the inside of a bank, given the name, but quite the opposite, very organic. They dropped some big bucks to get the wooden slats (I felt more like I was inside of a whale).
I wouldn't rave about the food, but once again, they just openned. They had some interesting flavor combinations. I really liked the concept of having "amuse", appetizer and entree courses. usually an app plus an entree is too much for me. Opting for an amuse instead of an app means that I get something in the first course, without negotiating for splitting something with a DC.
The wine list was very extensive, though slanted towards pricier options.
I didn't spend any time in the bar, but it is at least large enough to allow you to have a drink before dinner or as a place to meet up with a few friends. Something that is lacking in my S.E. restaurants.
I'll go back again to see how it shapes up.
BanQ is open. I went there last night with some friends. I was blown away by the look of the place. Very organic and yet modern. Overall very cozy. The food was excellent. There were many delicious flavors that I couldn't quite place but that I loved. The prices were very resonable. I thought the prices were going to be much higher considering the neighborhood. Tapas were good but on the small side. Service was excellent and very friendly. I plan on back often.
Went Saturday night.
Very friendly service, can't emphasize enough.
Not surprised by the design since it's Office Da...it's expected. Another canopy, but great nonetheless. Lights couId be better integrated between the plywood ribs and there's a little too much zebra-wood (i think) in the restaurant but I guess it creates a warmer feel. I still think the play-on bathroom talk/recordings between men's and women's falls short (since it was so-hyped). It's in the vain of Diller+Scofidio's video recordings of people entering the restaurant at the bar of Brasserie in NY...playing on voyueristic tendencies...but just doesn't do it for me.
Tacky "ying and yang" comment on the menu among other "Asian" hints such as "forbidden rice" (seriously? please). Scallop "amuse" was the best (we ordered 5 of the 6), salmon with sugar cane is a no-go (girlfriend noted it was reminiscent of a tasty "old couch"...i agree). Croquettes were solid especially since coming with a delicious mimolette cheese. Haddock entree well-rounded and delicious.
Went out on a limb and ordered the "banq tasting" dessert. Bad idea. This "tasting" included wasabi ice cream, blue cheese ice cream, a pineapple spring roll (?) and some sort of berry-sushi (um, no). Awful. Thought it had potential (well, at least we thought the ice creams had potential), but realized it is something probably best served at some mediocre new american-asian-fusion restaurant that's trying to be hip. We think Banq should take it off the menu asap. If they want to do an "asian" theme with that dessert, try a new slant on paht bing-soo (shaved ice, red beans, condensed milk, etc.etc.)...then I would be impressed.
Overall, though, we enjoyed our experience and would recommend it for a fun night out. It is (I wince when i say) a "fusion" restaurant that I'm not sure has found its complete focus, but with some time I think they could work-out the kinks. We'd go back with friends.
I was at Banq last night with a couple friends. I really give them kudos for their service, especially given the short time they've been open. I was greeted by the very friendly, smiley host who I think used to work at Mistral. The bartenders couldn't have been nicer or more attentive. Really there were no mix ups at all. The wines by the glass seem quite reasonably priced, I think most under $10. The complimentary bread of the day was naan with a delicious spread that sadly I don't remember what it was. I ordered a couple of appetizers and while my two companions liked everything they ate, including my food, I didn't like either thing I ordered. Everything tasted to me of curry and if there's one thing I don't like, it's curry. But as I said, I don't think it was a problem with the food itself, just a problem with my own taste buds. For me, this is a great place for drinks at the bar, but I'll skip the food next time.
I ordered the Vietnamese shrimp with glass noodles and the veal/rice croquettes. Like I said, there was nothing wrong with them other than I didn't like the flavor and both had the same flavor likely in the sauce drizzled on the plates. They had that yellow curry flavor that you might get in a Thai yellow curry or something. I don't know much about what kind of curry since I have never liked the taste or smell which makes me stay away from it.
One other somewhat odd thing that I forgot to mention...The signs for the bathrooms are those female and male symbols (the circle with the cross and the circle with the arrow). To me that's just confusing and I'm not sure what the point is. Why not just have a sign saying "Men" and "Ladies"?
Banq's GM, who is often on the host stand, was indeed Mistral's GM previously.
I'm confused by the use of the term "curry" as though it refers to a specific flavor. I think most Americans who don't like curry mean that yellow curry powder stuff in their spice racks. Is that what you're talking about? I've sampled a lot of Banq's menu, and I haven't yet tasted a dish that reminded me of McCormick or Durkee curry powder.
As residents of the South End on Washington Street we have been incredibly impressed (and grateful) for all the new restaurants that have opened in our neighborhood. All have been winners in their own way - particularly, Rocca, Gaslight, Stella, Sage and Meyers & Chang. So it was with great anticipation and high expectations that we dined last night at Banq on Washington Street. Sadly, we were mightily disappointed by the experience.
The first thing one will notice about Banq is the interesting décor that reminded us of the Sydney Opera House - all layered wood and clearly a costly architectural design element. Being a Saturday night, the front bar area was packed with patrons and many were dining at the tall bar tables. This was problematic, however, as waiters, diners, and bar patrons were all crammed into far too small a space. There was far too much jostling and bumping that bordered on the uncomfortable. Banq keeps a flat screen TV tuned to ESPN and it was never turned off the entire time we were at the restaurant, in spite of the fact that no one was watching. Why the TV? This is not a sports bar. When we were able to get close enough to the bar to order two glasses of chardonnay from the bar, we discovered that the pour was very stingy. My wife and I dine out frequently and we have noted that wines by the glass are normally poured – perhaps somewhat generously- at a rate of approximately 4 glasses per bottle or about 180 ml per glass. The pour here at Banq was substantially less. Other restaurants either measure in a carafe or the bartender might err a bit on the generous side. This is not so at Banq, where our wine glasses were filled with about 110 mls of wine. First impressions – terribly chintzy profit taking at the bar.
We were seated on time and ordered sparking water rather than tap water. The bottle was unceremoniously placed on the table unopened and remained so. We had difficulty with the twist off cap but finally were able to open and pour it ourselves. Our attention was now on the wine list. It is substantial with several hundred bottles. On first perusal, it seemed impressive if a bit pricey. We ordered a wine from a favorite producer of ours, Guigal. After several long minutes, we were informed that this wine, although on the list, was unavailable. We selected a second wine, again from Guigal, and again another wait until we were told that the wine we had chosen was also unavailable. We were informed by our server that we might have better luck with a California Syrah selection, given that the restaurant had only been open for two weeks they had already sold out of some of the “blends” that were on the wine list. We asked to speak to a wine sommelier or steward but were told the manager would come right over. However, no one arrived. So we selected another “lesser” producer (for our palate) from the Rhone region, although we were brought a 2005 release instead of the 2004 that was featured on the wine list. At that point after two failed attempts at what should have been an enjoyable part of the dining experience, we decided to keep the wine as delivered. Perhaps Banq should add a new section to their wine list: “Wines We Offer but Don’t Actually Stock.”
The menu is short but adequate with small “amouse” courses, appetizers and entrees. We ordered two amouse dishes and two entrees. All are priced within the range of other restaurants in the area. But there the similarity ends. Our Duck Confit amouse was doughy and dry and the Beet Salad amouse was tasty but small even for an amouse course. The entrees took nearly another hour to arrive and when they did get to the table, they were cold and unappetizing. When asked by our server “how are your meals?” we mildly complained and were offered to have our meals reheated. But we were so hungry at this point that we opted to keep the food as plated. In addition to cold, the Sirloin Steak was thin and dry. The side of mash was inedible in its cold state as was the gravy –which I requested to be served on the side – and was served with a thin film on top. The Short Ribs were flavorful, if barely even lukewarm, but everything else on the plate was inedible because it was actually cold.
Desert was a different story. The crème brulee duo with a side of lemon sorbet was light and delicious. But alas, the Cappuccino was not Cappuccino - it was coffee with milk added. There was absolutely no foamy head. We’re not even sure it was decaf cappuccino, as we lay awake sleepless half that night.
In the interest of full disclosure, the manager did finally make it over to our table during the desert course and apologized for the problems that we encountered and hoped that we would give them another try. We were told that a “computer failure” had caused the delay that meant our food had not been properly served at temperature. When our server presented us with the bill, Banq did the right thing and didn’t charge us for the entrees.
We will go back and give them another chance, but we are going to let them get through their growing pains first. Banq needs to stop and take stock now before it’s too late.
re: SOWA Eaters
Thanks for the detailed review: I hope you keep posting!
One thing I've noticed is that Banq seems to be following a relatively new South End trend: crowds showing up at new places very quickly. Banq has been jammed for the last few nights, and there's a least a good-sized bar crowd in there every weeknight. I saw a similar headlong early rush shortly after the completion of the soft-opening periods at Rocca, Gaslight, The Beehive, and Meyers+Chang.
Not many brand-new restaurants are going to be up to speed (front or back of house) quickly enough to handle such crowds; the service experiences at all of those places early on was predictably rough. I've had better luck than SOWA Eaters in my early experiences at Banq, but I would bet that it's going to continue to be rough sledding there for at least another month or so. There's a price to pay for being able to tell your friends you got there first.
I've been twice and I've been so-so'd by it, not wowed. The decor is really cool - very warm and welcoming and I loved the wood ceiling. The service was cordial and friendly although slow the two times I've been. It's still new so I'm sure they're working out the kinks.
I liked some of my food but not all. I've had the shortribs with cumin which was a tiny itty bitty 2-bite shortrib - delicious and small, on the amuse side of the menu. It was really tender and smokey and I liked it. For $5 it's a nice bite to start off the meal. The sea scallops with lentils was my favorite - again on the amuse side of the menu and again around $5 and yes small - one scallop with a delicious sauce and the lentils were spicy and well flavored underneath it. The lamb spring roll was well flavored and not greasy - I'm not a huge lamb person so while this was good I wasn't a fan. And the duck samosa amuse was too tough for me to enjoy but I did really like the duck flavor inside.
Less successful was the grey sole appetizer - a small piece for $12 which was just wrong. It had some sort of mango sauce and some rice underneath and the flavor of the sole was off-putting and with the sauce the whole dish was not a hit. I didn't finish this. Another time I had the mung bean crepe for $10 I think and again I wasn't impressed with this. It was greasy and the goat cheese and mushroom ragout it was served with didn't really go all that well together.
I've only had the Zucchini and Tofu Steak main course for $19 which was served with a flavorful noodle tomato combo. This was interesting but not flavorful enough for me. The tofu was bland but the noodles were good so when I ate them all together it was okay. It was passable to me but I won't order it again.
I've tried one dessert - the pear tart - and it was okay. The crust was tough but the pear was tasty. The ice cream was fine - although i can't remember what flavor it was.
Overall it's nice to see a restaurant doing food that is different from what everyone else is doing in Boston, which I really like. I found it to be quite a scene, with the bar out front and everyone looking fabulous. I thought the prices to be okay - not super pricey but not cheap either, especially if you go with amuse, app, entree, etc. It seems like more of a social scene than a food scene so I don't think I'll be back soon.
went again with out of town friends. made a reservation on open table. they called to follow-up on friday (the day of the reservation) and confirm. I confirmed. showed up with 5 friends and the hostess said there was no reservation on file. WHAT?! they called THAT MORNING. but, luckily they sat us right away or there would have been some choice words. got home later that evening and checked my email. they had CANCELED my reservation on opentable 45 minutes before the reservation was to be fulfilled. what?! hopefully just a mistake by the those working the computers at the front....
I'd heard that they reorganized their menu. Apparently their smallest plates are off the menu, although many are reformatted as the mid-size plates (appetizers, rather than amuse).
Doesn't totally surprise me, because when I was there a month or so ago, I fashioned a nice meal out of a few of those-- but it can't have been much of a moneymaker for them.
Can anyone confirm?
I thought it was a cool place for a drink and a small bite, but definitely won't be in my regular rotation.
Had a pretty bad meal on a busy weekend night: half our food arrived cold, and even the hot stuff seemed sloppily executed. Very disappointing. Ate at the bar on a recent weeknight and had a much better experience: attentive service on its game, excellent cocktails, much better food (and all served hot). Anecdotally, I guess this suggests you should avoid it during the weekend crush.
re: MC Slim JB
thanks for the feedback. does "much better" mean the first weekend trip was a 3/10 and the second was a 6/10 and in comparison it was a world away from the first -or- did they actually score legitimate high marks during the week and you would happily go back?
not sure if that makes sense, but trying to figure out if it's a hit or miss (and will of course heed your advice and skip the crazy weekends)...
No, I've been upwards of a dozen times, split about evenly between dining room and bar dining experiences. I only had my first really disappointing meal the time before last, but it was bad timing: I brought out of town guests. Afterward, I vowed to take them to Angela's or something similarly Chowish next time instead of an obvious trendy South End place.
Banq redeemed itself a bit on my last visit. I don't think the food is ravishing, but some dishes are very good and the prices are quite decent, so the overall experience rates pretty good by neighborhood standards. Solid bartending helps. I think the complimentary bread (often a little mini-naan) and spread of the day might still be my favorite thing there.