A gem has been added to Boston’s South End neighborhood! Banyan Bar + Refuge is a Modern Asian Gastropub located in the former Hamersley’s Bistro location on Tremont Street. If you are familiar with the now closed East by Northeast in Cambridge (so good) then you know you’ll be getting a lot of greatness because their Executive Chef is taking charge of Banyan’s kitchen. All we can say is that you’re in for a delicious Asian fusion innovative experience.
Although we had six items off the menu, we narrowed it down to three musts that will give you a feel for what Banyan has waiting for you without breaking the bank because it can be pricey.
1. Takoyaki – braised calamari/ aioli/ nori/ bonito/ sweet soy glaze
Honestly, we don’t know what the hell half of these ingredients are, but at the same time we don’t really care because it was delicious! Have to admit that we thought we were going to get something that looked like calamari, but instead we got something that looked like hushpuppies. It was crispy on the outside and had a soft dough-like consistency on the inside. While there were no visible pieces of calamari that we could detect, we definitely found traces of it in the flavor combination. It was really good and look forward to the next time we see them again. A perfect snack to go with your drink.
2. Pork Buns – red braised pulled pork on house bun/ green cabbage slaw/ crispy shallots
Sh*tttttttttt – Where do we even begin with the buns… In a nutshell, they were all that and a bag of chips! (#90’sthrowback)
Stuffed to the point where nothing else could fit, the playoff of textures between the tenderness of the pork and the crispy shallots and cabbage was very well rounded. Only one comes per order and while we opted to share one – and we were pretty satisfied, the other person we went with had one for himself. It was this dish right here that had our friend saying, “I’d come back” and that was early into our meal.
3. Salmon Tartare – pomegranate/ jicama/ coconut lime vinaigrette
Definitely a favorite! We were iffy on this dish because pomegranate, coconut and salmon don’t sound like a combination that peaks our interest, but after having tried it we were glad we did. We loved the pieces of coconut found in the tartare and the vinaigrette was not overpowering and added a nice touch to the dish. The salmon was also of nice quality and cut to a nice size. It’s innovative dishes like this that make you want to come back for more.
The decor is nice and there are a mishmash of vibes going on here. Modern and cool come to mind, but not too pretentious. The huge branches throughout the dinning room area are beautiful and also gave me that feel that you are about to experience something you never have before. There were tables that accommodated groups as well as couples and the chef’s counter in front of the kitchen gives you a chance to see the magic happen.
Overall we had a really nice experience. There were three of us and we each had a drink, shared six tapas and ended up paying $50 each including tip. Parking will be tough (it’s the South End), but keep in mind that they have valet. The staff were knowledgeable, friendly and really made you feel welcomed. Truth is, after tasting these dishes you’ll probably want to taste the whole menu. We know we did. Just in case you’re wondering, here are pics of the rest of the dishes we tried.
Takoyaki $12/ Pork Buns $8 each/ Salmon Tartare $15
Banyan Bar & Refuge – 553 Tremont Street, Boston, MA