Downtown Provo is recognized for many things – its assortment of shops, small-town yet metropolitan feel and its variety of restaurants. The newest addition, The Banana Leaf, has a “One of these things is not like the other” vibe.
The bright yellow, green and red building has been getting a lot of attention since it recently opened on Oct. 9. It is the first Sri Lankan and Singaporean restaurant in Utah.
With several international restaurants surrounding The Banana Leaf, owners Jett and Ariana Selvaratnam wanted it to stand out by its complete authenticity. The Selvaratnams target only people who want to try genuine Sri Lankan and Singaporean food.
Although it isn’t franchised, The Banana Leaf is a worldwide restaurant. They are all simply restaurants that use banana leaves to cook their food. According to Jett Selvaratnam, research shows nutrients are added to the food when placed on the banana leaf. Most of the food at the restaurant is served on a banana leaf, giving customers a true Sri Lankan and Singaporean experience. The building reflects that culture, too.
“You want to know what’s inside, but then when you go inside the craziness dims away to a complete elegant, beautiful and romantic atmosphere,” said Ariana. “People are blown away simply by the décor.”
The Selvaratnams strive to make The Banana Leaf a health-based restaurant. They serve only three different types of soda including Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and Sprite. The reason for such a decision is that they want to shift people into choosing healthier drinks. Avocado juice, a traditional Sri Lankan drink, can be found at the restaurant along with other authentic vegetable and fruit drinks.
The Selvaratnams distinguish The Banana Leaf from other restaurants by providing less variety per season so that customers get the opportunity to try all of the dishes. Rather than customers picking one “go-to” item out of 50, they provide them with less than 10 choices per season and change items so that customers get a chance to try everything.
The couple was inspired to open a restaurant by Jett’s father, who started cooking at a young age and later got into the restaurant business. His family has two other top-ranked restaurants in Sri Lanka.
Opening the restaurant wasn’t a smooth process. The Selvaratnams faced many trials along the way, from Provo City opposing to the idea of a restaurant to the colors of the exterior. It took the Selvaratnams a year to officially open The Banana Leaf.
The year was well worth the wait. Despite the fact that the Selvaratnams did not advertise the restaurant, customers anticipated the grand opening and even lined up outside the restaurant for a well-awaited dining experience. The Selvaratnams measure The Banana Leaf’s initial success not by how many customers come in but by how many customers come back, which is what they believe is the greatest sign for a restaurant.
The Banana Leaf
409 W. University Ave., Provo
Hours: Monday-Saturday 4:30 p.m.-10 p.m.