Panda Restaurant is sweeping the shores of Browns Bay with the flavours of Szechuan. If you are after a hearty bowl of spicy dan dan noodles or chilli oil shui jiao dumplings, you no longer need to travel to the motherland or Dominion Road.
The North Shore's latest Chinese restaurant is cooking up the spice-driven staples of Szechuan cuisine, just in time for winter. It is currently operating a trial menu in anticipating of the grand opening on May 17, but there is already an array of authentic and affordable noodles and dumplings for diners to enjoy. We were promised a more extensive menu boasting cold dishes including fuqi feipian (spicy beef and tripe salad) and hot plates like stews and stir fries.
With an open plan, indoor-outdoor flow, Panda Restaurant gives a very neighbourly feel to its patrons. The bamboo patterns on the wall and porcelain panda decorations complement the panda-themed crockery perfectly while the yellow lighting gives the entire place a warm and fuzzy feel.
We were delighted to see some of the Szechuan (Sichuan) classics on the menu: mapo tofu, kung pao chicken and shui jiao dumplings. Unfortunately, on the night we visited we were told that quite a few of the items had run out. We ended up ordering a selection of the remainder: Sichuan chilli oil dumplings ($10 for ten), steamed mini shrimp xiaolongbao ($11.50 for six) and fried mini pork xiaolongbao ($11 for six). The buns, made fresh in-store, are meaty parcels that certainly make a carnivore's dream come true. Take your pick from the classic pork, shrimp or beef fillings.
We also tried Panda's signature noodle with beef and bamboo shoots ($14.50). It was covered in chilli oil but surprisingly didn't taste too spicy and had the right balance of flavours. Again, there was a generous portion of beef cubes and bamboo shoots. Currently, the vegetarian and vegan options are quite limited, but fortunately, we were given a sneak peak at some side salads ($6.80) and stir-fried cauliflowers ($15.30) which will be introduced after the grand opening. We also tasted a trial version of the beef tripes and celery salad ($15.30) which is a refreshing and spicy salad sprinkled with peanuts and spring onions on top. It's a dish for the bold, but I can assure you that you will not be disappointed. They are in the process of getting an alcohol license, and I can imagine the spicy dumplings and sides go down a treat with a few bottles of icy cold beers.
The smiles and attentive service of the staff from Panda made our night very enjoyable. I would happily visit Panda again.