BanQ — It’s good… very good.

Located in the remodeled lobby of the old Penny Savings Bank on Washington Street, BanQ has generated quite a bit of chatter since opening in mid-February. With an eclectic mix of Southeast Asian, Indian and French influence, BanQ offers the menu musings of New Delhi chef du jour Ranveer Brar. I had heard some very positive things about BanQ… so I meandered over for a Girl’s Night Out on Saturday.

We (“M” and I) started our evening at The Beehive, a past favorite of mine — for a few cocktails in order to get ‘warmed up’ (pun intended). We arrived around 7pm and went directly to the bar downstairs… where “M” started with a Bee-Lini ($10.50) — a Champagne cocktail made with fresh apricot nectar and I decided to start the evening with something a little stronger, a Beehive Julep ($10) — a refreshing blend of rum, Liquor Creole and lime (though my glass had lime, lemon and orange… muddled with mint).

The drinks went down smoothly and we were quickly ordering our second round. I stuck with the Julep, but “M” ventured off and got The Rasputin ($10) — a wintery concoction of hard apple cider, calvados and cinnamon syrup. She preferred the Bee-lini, but had no problems finishing the drink off.

Before we knew it, it was 8:20 and we were rushing out the door for our cold walk down to BanQ. We arrived about 5 minutes later and were seated immediately. If you have done any reading of the Boston news rags lately (the Improper, Stuff at Night, the Phoenix, Digg, Boston.com, etc.) you know that the architectural Piece de Resistance at BanQ is the layer after layer of curved birchwood pieces that adorn the ceiling, giving the space a funky cave-like atmosphere. While beautifully designed eye candy, my only complaint is that these delicious layers create a little acoustic problem. BanQ’s dining room is quite noisy. Fine for fun evenings out with groups of friends, but maybe a bit overwhelming if you are looking for a romantic and quiet date night. I honestly loved the place though.

The menu at BanQ is divided into three sections: Asian Amuse, Appetizers and Main Courses. We opted for sharing three Amuse and ordering separate dinners. We started with the Coho Salmon ($4.50) on a sugar cane stick with watercress and cherry tomato vinaigrette, the Shortribs ($5) braised with cumin and lemongrass with a Japanese yam fondant and the Baby Beets ($4.50), cured in mirin and served with Chevre and a wasabi, mitsukan reduction.

We also ordered a bottle of wine, the Cold Hills Sauvignon Blanc (from New Zealand) for $29.

“M” doesn’t eat seafood and I don’t eat red meat, so we each savored our a little amuse ourselves and then shared the beets.

The Coho salmon was unbelievably good. The salmon was ridiculously tender, delicious and had an amazing sauce (which, sounds underrated on the menu) — I would have licked the plate clean if I could have. “M” indicated that the short ribs were also amazing. The beets and chevre were very good… but nothing overly inventive or special. The beets were tasty, the chevre was fresh, but I couldn’t detect the wasabi undertones. Overall it was good… just not memorable.

The wine was very nice. A typical and dependable New Zealand Sauvignon blanc, with fresh herbal flavors and an acidic finish.

For dinner, I went with the Grilled Cod ($26), dusted with morels, Pommery banana flower relish, lotus root Provencal and a green tea miso beurre blanc. I really enjoyed my meal…. it was delicious — with the cod being a delicate balance of flaky white fish fused with traditional Asian flavors. “M” got the Roasted Chicken ($21). Unfortunately, I do not remember the details of this meal and it is not listed on their website’s menu. “M” thought the meal was good, but the chicken was dry, bordering on tough. She could barely cut through it with the knife provided.

We finished our meal with desert. I got the Creme Brulee ($9), served in 2 separate cups, with a delicate sugar crust and a side of fresh mango sorbet. “M” went with the Chocolate Torte ($10), a soft-centered chocolate cake, served with a side of ice cream. Both were very good, pretty traditional, but nothing overly special. Don’t get me wrong… I ate (and enjoyed) the entire thing, but if I’m comparing these to the creations of other innovative chefs, they were just okay.

Overall, a very good experience, nice atmosphere, tasty food and moderate to good service. I would go back, but I wasn’t as gung ho as I’d hoped. I think BanQ will be around for a while, but I also think the need to step it up a bit to join the ranks of the big Boston food players.

Banq in Boston

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