Monkey King Noodle Co. is no fly-by-night Chinese food spot — this beloved Deep Ellum street food joint makes noodles and dumplings by hand, and the resulting food is some of the best in the neighborhood. After moving the restaurant from their food stand at 3014 Main St. to a brick-and-mortar with indoor seating about 100 yards away at 2933 Main St., owner Andrew Chen decided to use the tiny food stand to experiment with desserts. The walk-up spot, which opens this week, will be open noon to 9 or 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, Chen says.
He called the new dessert spot the Banana Stand, an obvious homage to the TV show Arrested Development, and brought in pastry chef Cuong Vo, formerly of Bisous Bisous Patisserie and the Four Seasons Las Colinas. The duo worked up a menu of a few items inspired by desserts popular in countries like Japan and Taiwan.
"Similar to Monkey King, we'll take a few items we know we can make great and that we love, and we'll go with it," Chen says.
The current menu is centered around egg tarts, airy cheesecake souffles and ice cream in flavors like green tea and Vietnamese coffee, all made in-house. The Vietnamese coffee flavor is pretty astounding in how much it tastes like the real thing, thanks in part to ample chickory and condensed milk. The stand-out green tea is made with two types of tea — a gun powder leaf and a matcha powder — giving the ice cream a stronger dose of green tea flavor than most takes on this uber-refreshing ice cream.
"There's a slight bitterness on the end, as if you're drinking an actual cup of tea," Chen says.
With Vo manning the mixer, Banana Stand's pastries really sing.
"I love egg tarts — they're Portuguese originally but are really popular in Taiwan," Chen says. Like a lot of Asian desserts, the tiny hand-held crust holding a creamy custard aren't cloyingly sweet — flavors are more subtle, which puts added pressure on the Banana Stand to really nail the consistency and texture.
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But perhaps the real star of this show is the impossibly light, fluffy cheesecake souffle, a moist, spongy cake that has proven quite popular in Japan. Its mere construction is a marvel of modern baking — it's so light and airy, it seems impossible that the dessert is able to stand on its own. For those who find New York-style cheesecake too sweet and heavy, this hand-held dessert will prove popular.
The menu at the Banana Stand will evolve as time goes on, Chen says, but for now, it's an ideal spot to grab a sweet snack and a curious flavor of ice cream — or you could just stick to the classics like chocolate and vanilla. But where's the fun in that?
Monkey King Banana Stand, 3014 Main St.