Some things in Sydney are worth queuing for, and some things are not. Banana Blossom in Manly (with sister stores in Bondi and Mona Vale), which is pretty much rammed to the nines every time we go in, is worth the wait (and we've had to wait uphill of 45 minutes to get our salad, so we know what we’re talking about).
That's because the Asian-style salads here are massive, filling and totally delicious. In the Manly outfit, each salad is made fresh in front of you in the open kitchen beyond the counter. There are a few simple tables inside and a couple of cute wicker tables and chairs outside, but most people choose to take away to sit and eat on the beach, so you’re likely to be able to nab a seat even when it is busy (if the beach doesn’t tempt you too). They do rice paper rolls too, which are mammoth and so have been cut up into four, but they’re often pre-made. We’d go the fresher salad options if we were you.
We like the Thai beef salad, a hotchpotch of red and white steamed rice, cherry tomatoes, beansprouts, cucumber, coriander and warm grass-fed beef, but the dressing might be too sweet for some. Add a bit of the – blisteringly-hot – chilli sauce on the counter to balance it out.
Our ultimate pick? The satay rice noodle salad. You can get it with warm puffs of fried tofu or big slices of tender chicken breast, and we’d be happy with either. Basically it’s a big-ass salad of leaves, stretchy bún bò huế-style rice noodles (like spaghetti, but made with rice), shredded Chinese cabbage and a heap of herbs all doused in a creamy, coconutty, sesame and peanut-infused dressing. There are big slabs of cucumber and beansprouts in there for crunch, and chunks of fresh pineapple that add a delicate, but not overwhelming sweetness. And it’s gluten-free.
The Tokyo Classic is similarly excellent. Served with either chicken or tofu, green tea soba noodles are tossed with salad leaves, avocado, tomatoes and cucumber and dressed in a salty-sweet, creamy sesame dressing. There are plenty of vegan options too, as well as veggie, including the Vegan New York with rice noodles, carrots, orange and cashews in a sweet and sour rice vinegar dressing, or how about Pure Buddha’s Delight? It’s a rice noodle salad with pineapple, nashi pear, green papaya and cashews in a sweet tamarind sauce.
Want to skip the queues? The rules are the same for everywhere really: go early, when they open, or late, after the lunchtime rush. But be warned, because each salad is made fresh to order, even when the queue doesn’t look very long, trust us, the wait is longer than you think.
But we'd wager that when you get your food, like us, you won’t be sorry. All of them look massive, but somehow we seem to get through one each without even breaking a sweat. Instead we feel happily full, but not overly so. Does that mean that this is health food? Maybe, but frankly we couldn’t give a noodle. The food here just tastes brilliant, and the queues in Manly mean we’re not the only ones to think so.