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10° & CLOUDY ON TUESDAY 20 NOVEMBER IN AUCKLAND
By Annie Ren
July 02, 2018
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Panda

This new Queens Rise opening puts a playful spin on traditional Chinese cuisine.
By Annie Ren
July 02, 2018
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Panda is a playful eatery situated in the newly opened New York-inspired laneway, Queen's Rise. It aims to spin an innovative and kawaii twist on traditional Chinese dumplings and buns while also challenge the palate with bold and spicy flavours.

Amongst an array of newly opened hipster eateries, Panda is located on the right of the foyer space. It has a small entrance which is big enough that you won't miss the dumpling trays and the aroma of freshly steamed bao. Walking in, you are greeted by a large, spacious dining area. As part of the sharing food hall at Queen's Rise, there are many tables and seats which make Panda ideal for a weekend lunch or an after-work bites destination. The area is dimly lit, but hey, I guess that just adds to the appeal.

In addition to the impressive display of food behind the large glass counters, Panda also has a menu that showcases around seven or eight different varieties of noodle or rice dishes. They are ideal for a simple but nutritious lunch as well as dinner for one if you don't feel like cooking. Going with a big group, you also get the options of ordering their dumplings by the dozen ($10) or 18 pieces ($12). Moreover, they also have two large sharing dishes: the spicy steamed chicken and spicy beef. I'm hoping that this selection of the menu will grow in the future, helping Panda make the most of the relaxing dining space and offer better variety for those who come with a big appetite.

All of the food is handmade and freshly cooked in store. Better yet, it is an all-day eatery that opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So pay them a visit whenever you feel like a bite. The dumplings and bao can all be sold individually (unlike your traditional yum cha which serves dumplings in sets of three or four). The steamed dumplings are $1 each ($1.2 for pan-fried), where discounts are available for larger quantity orders.

I like to pick and choose, so I bought five pork and five pork and prawn dumplings separately ($10). The flavours were bang on and the mince and prawn used was fresh and delicious. I really enjoyed the prawn and pork combination as the prawn gave a hint of sweetness to the savoury pork. Dipping those dumplings in their chilli oil with some vinegar — that's a little explosion in your mouth.

What also caught my eye were the creative buns from Panda. On offer, they have yellow piggy custard buns, hedgehog-shaped sweet potato buns with an interesting purple filling and red bean-filled panda buns ($2.50 each). The milk buns are soft and fluffy, and the filling was just right. The sweet potato paste wasn't oozing out from the bun, but there was enough that gives the bun a depth of flavour and earthy sweetness. It's hard to say no to eating just one more of these little fluffy pillows of happiness.

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