Local Spotlight

Houston Has Another "End of the Universe" in Chinatown with Banana Leaf II

Most Houstonians remember when the city was briefly thrust into the national spotlight for something far stupider than our usual assortment of bad press: The time several years back when comedian Lewis Black called Houston the "end of the universe" for having two Starbucks on opposite sides of the street at Shepherd and West Gray.

In this week's cafe review of Banana Leaf II, we take a look at another "end of the universe" situation that's developed on the far west side of town, in which a second location of the popular Malaysian restaurant has been built directly across Bellaire Boulevard from the original -- which is still open, and still as busy as ever.

Banana Leaf II is about four times the size of the original, yet you'll still find a wait on busy weekend nights. The menu is greatly expanded here as well, with new items like Assam-style stingray hot pot and absolutely addictive fried shrimp cakes in a sticky-creamy sweet-and-sour sauce.

If the opening of this much-needed second location directly across the street from another Banana Leaf means another "end of the universe" in Houston, I'm certainly okay with that. After all, in high school I worked at a Starbucks inside a Barnes & Noble that was cattycorner in the same parking lot to another Starbucks, and none of us disintegrated into unbound elementary particles and radiation nor were we ripped apart by phantom dark energy (as I've heard will happen when we reach the end of the actual universe). And that was years before Black discovered West Gray's dueling Starbucks.

And besides, we all know that it's a restaurant that's at the end of the universe -- not a coffee shop. If it happens to serve Malaysian food, then it's all the better.

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Katharine Shilcutt