When it comes to its food habits, India is that trendy little fashionista who buys a gazillion pairs of heels one year, only to get rid of them and buy a closet full of pumps the next year. Simply put, we pick a trend which is the party flavour for a while before the fizz runs out and we have something else to go gaga over.
The bustling little lane that Lokhandwala link road is, recently gave me a refresher course on our trend driven mentality when I was dining at this tiny eatery that is having people literally eating out of its chubby hands. The last time I was near-about was when cupcakes were oh so the rage and the Boston Cupcakery was serving up baked delights with orgasmic frostings. But now that the cupcake fad is passé, there’s’ a new kid on the block that’s taking up the “trendy eatery” moniker and boy am I happy it’s doing a great job.
So as a country we’ve recently evolved our Asian vocabulary from Manchurians, lollipops, and lung fungs, having graduated to terms like bao, dimsum, and khow suey. And like the endless calls from your psychotic ex, Instagram and Facebook feeds are flooded with cute little baos and gorgeously perfect dimsums.
So in a world of me too’s where everyone seems to be doing the same thing with a basket steamer and a pair of chopsticks, a refreshing change from the hullabaloo is when someone actually decides to put in the work where it is needed and churn up stuff that makes you smile, fills your belly, and doesn’t make you fail the financial management exam in life. Enter Go Panda, a hole in the wall joint that is standing tall despite being in the company of some really big names in its vicinity.
The absolutely cute panda and the bright red & yellow signage makes the place, which is otherwise the blink and you’ll miss sorts, stand out to an extent, but that’s’ where your romance with the ambiance will end. The place is unashamedly devoid of any frills and it screams take away as loudly as it can. But do take something away for sure because their food, in most part, is definitely worth writing home about.
So I recently dined at Go Panda with my favourite posse of bloggers and by the time the Panda was done with us we had no room in our stomachs even for a gasp of air. Here’s my recount of the dinner.
This wonderfully coconut’ey Thai soup is a heart warming delight. The delicate balance of the galangal and the lemongrass is what most people tend to get wrong but thankfully not in this case. The coconut milk was just enough to give that lovely velvety texture to the soup without making it a runny mess. The one thing that I felt was slightly amiss was the aroma. I guess the kafir lime was added a little frugally. But other than that, the soup was wonderful.
Certainly recommend this!
LAMB SLOPPY JOE
Why I saw this on the menu of a pan Asian eatery was a little surprising and despite having mowed through the entire Joe myself I couldn’t figure this out. But who cares! Isn’t a sloppy joe a good sight to see no matter where.
The curried lamb centre of the sandwich was wonderfully flavoured although the bun could have been softer, to absorb the juices better. And of course there is no such thing as extra cheese.
This is not even remotely Asian, but it looks inviting and certainly tastes great!
SINGAPOREAN BAIDA ROTI
Now this had no similarities with the canai roti but purely from a baida roti point of view, I quite liked it.
The paratha was nice and crisp and I could feel the ghee overload in it. The chicken kheema mixture was perfect in terms of the texture and the seasoning, being slightly dry in order to avoid making the paratha soggy. Except the amount of egg being too much for the dish, it was absolutely perfect!
You won’t regret asking for this although it isn’t the best offering on their menu for sure.
I’ve never been a steamed dumpling fan and I generally peel off the exterior just to savour the filling. I can’t really say much here except that the mince chicken filling was refreshingly balanced and didn’t seem like the ginger garlic overload I am used to consuming in the name of a momo.
If you like momos, these are a must have!
ASIAN NOODLE CROQUETTE
Here here! The winner on the menu has arrived. Not only is this somewhat innovative, it is comfort food in all of its glory. Delicious noods tossed with some cheese and sprig onions, and then croquette’d (NO that’s not a word anywhere). You simply cannot get better than that. No point in dissecting this dish for its pros and cons, it is good old comfort food and surely something you can kick back with when you’re watching a game of football with the buddies.
TWISTED ASIAN OMELETTE
This is not a human portion of omelette if that’s what you are looking to eat. Perhaps they kept the average bear in mind when they were setting portion sizes. Omelettes are a staple when it comes to fried rice dishes and what Go Panda does, is just reverse the general equation. Instead of adding a bit of omelette to the fried rice, they’ve gone and added a lot of rice to the omelette itself.
Now doesn’t everyone enjoy a nice fluffy omelette along with their fried rice? Yes we do!
SICHUAN POT RICE
I’ll give them props for the presentation (in a pot) and for the portion size of the dish, but in terms of taste this wasn’t a very enjoyable affair. The Sichuan sauce seemed a little watered down and bland. I could hardly make out any spices in the dish and towards the end the rice had started becoming gloopy.
I’d still give this another shot before writing it off because I’ve heard quite some positive comments about their pot rice preparations and maybe it was just a bad day at the office for them.
In terms of their setup Go Panda is unashamedly a take away joint yet they make every effort to please the few guests they can accommodate for dine-ins. The service is quick & courteous and manages to take good care of the few people that are able to sit here for a meal.
The food they have on offer is certainly worth a try or even more, but what appeals to me most is the size of their portions and how affordable it is to eat a Go Panda meal. In terms of value for money, you cannot take away a single point from these guys and they’re doing a fabulous job at it.
OVERALL… The fuss over pan Asian is far from being over and with the great work that eateries like Go Panda are doing, it seems like a good while before the trend dies down and we have something new to obsess over.
AMBIANCE & TAKE AWAY – 3.5 / 5 (ordered take away too and the delivery experience was so-so)
FOOD – 4 / 5
PRICE – 4.5 / 5
OVERALL – 4 / 5