Banyan Tree/Banyan Garden 41 Woodsworth Ln., Pleasant Hill, 925-686-9828; 1771 Decoto Rd., Union City, 510-324-8506 Banyan.us
You foodies thought you had Asian fusion figured out in the 1990s, didn't you? You were all, "Yawn, wasabi sauce" and "God, not another ginger-scallion relish." Well, you haven't seen anything until you've been to Malaysia, where cooks were fusing Indian, Malay, Chinese, and who knows what other cuisines before your ancestors even heard of the United States. At Banyan Tree and its sister restaurant Banyan Garden, you can find Malaysian-Singaporean food in all its pungent glory. This duo of restaurants offers a epic menu that hits all the highlights of centuries of gastronomic exchange: paper-thin crepes called roti canai, mild poached Hainanese chicken, morning glory leaves sautéed in shrimp paste and chiles, spicy pan-fried noodles, and deeply fragrant coconut-milk curries. The waiters are generally good at escorting Westerners on a tour of Asia's most multicultural cuisine.
While the region's influence on mainstream hip-hop has gone overlooked for decades, a new generation of break-out artists are reclaiming their musical heritage and drawing national attention back to the area.