The opening of Banyan Bar + Refuge has been one of the most highly anticipated restaurant openings in Boston this year. Brought to life by The Gallows Group, owners of The Gallows and my personal heaven, Blackbird Doughnuts, Banyan offers modern Asian inspired plates to share. Banyan is located in prime South End location on Tremont Street, taking the former spot of Boston’s famed Hamersley’s. Banyan opened about a month ago on July 18th, and I was so happy I was able to visit this weekend for a night out with a girlfriend!
We arrived at Banyan at 8 on Saturday night, just in time for our reservation. Unfortunately, we just missed a thunder storm, so the outdoor patio wasn’t open, but it looks like a great spot. As the host led us to our seats, he offered us the option of sitting at the kitchen bar or a regular table. We instantly jumped at the chance to sit counter-side- the chairs were beautiful and also it gave us some extra privacy to catch up instead of being squeezed in next to other tables. It really made the evening so much fun, as we were able to meet a lot of the wait-staff and ask them about the food. Our server, Harrison, was super attentive and made sure we always had what we needed whether it was a drink or a recommendation on the food.
To start the night, we both ordered the Sad Panda. When our server described it as an alcoholic watermelon jolly rancher, we were both instantly sold! It definitely lived up to the expectation. The drink menu at Banyan is really unique and we were happy with each drink we tried. For my second round, I had the rose Sangria and my friend Nicole tried the Painkiller.
Banyan describes themselves as a modern Asian gastropub and the Asian influence is all over the dinner menu. The majority of the menu is made up of small plates to share and just a few larger plates. For two, it was recommended that we order 5-6 plates. We definitely had plenty to eat ordering 5 of the smaller plates to share, plus dessert. Our meal kicked off with the pork wontons and the beef tartare. The beef tartare was delicious- served with seaweed, which I thought was very unique and drizzled with hot mustard for a bit of spice.
Next, we had the pulled pork bun and our vegetable order of roast potatoes. The pulled pork bun was great and I would recommend it to anyone who visits Banyan! The pork was super juicy and the bun was soft, just what you think for an Asian inspired bun. The potatoes were topped with ground lamb, pomegranates and tangy yogurt making for an interesting mix of flavors. While the dish was interesting and I am glad I tried it, we ordered it as our veggie side and we just didn’t realize it would be so loaded with lamb meat!
The crowd favorites of the night were the vegetable cast iron skillet rice and the sesame profiteroles. The cast iron skillet rice is Banyan’s take on fried rice, but I assure you it is nothing like the fried rice you have had in the past. It’s crisped up in a cast iron skillet until it becomes almost like a rice cake. The crispy crunchiness of the rice is softened up by the poached egg on top. Add in veggies and you have a unique and memorable dish! You know me and I can never resist something sweet to end the meal. Banyan is only serving on dessert at the moment, but when it’s the sesame profiteroles, you don’t need anything else! A light cream puff that’s topped with caramel and then toasted sesame seeds offers the perfect closing to a delicious dinner at Banyan.
During our dinner at Banyan, I was able to catch up with Seth Yaffe, COO of The Gallows Group, who I had met at a few earlier events at Blackbird Doughnuts. It was great to hear a bit more about their inspiration from Seth, like how he had the idea to add cocktails on tap, like their Painkiller, after seeing it while doing research for the restaurant. On my list to try next time I visit Banyan Bar + Refuge? The slushy Ichiban! Yes, a slushy beer! Seth shared that they are one of three locations in the US to have the machine, after Dodgers and Yankee Stadiums.
All in all, would I go back to Banyan? Absolutely yes! I can’t stop thinking about the vegetable rice, the pulled pork bun and the profiteroles. I have a feeling I’ll be having them all again soon!
Special thanks to my friend, Nicole for putting up with all my question-asking and picture taking at dinner- You are the best!