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!).
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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.