Rating: 5

February 5, 2013

We have been coming to this restaurant more or less regularly since it was just the Panda Garden and we have never been disappointed.

  1. Nowadays, we almost always order from the "Secret Menu" which is a listing of authentic Chinese foods. It isn't really as secret as it used to be, but that hasn't made it any less fun. It's been a great experience to experiment with these unfamiliar dishes. My favorite so far is the Steamed Sliced Fish which is a very simple, but incredibly delicious, preparation of a couple of large fish filets. From what I can taste, they seem to be steamed with ginger and a few other ingredients. Just melt-in-your-mouth good. My dining companion, who loves hot and spicy dishes, has always found something good on the Authentic Menu as well. There is some sort of pepper oil that they add to the soups; he has them put a lot in, so his broth looks almost radioactive, but he swears it's excellent. Curious? Get thee to their website menu, where you'll find a full listing under "Traditional Chinese Dishes," or get over to the Panda Plum and give it a go!

  2. Sure, we love the Special Secret Menu.... but we still sometimes order from the Regular Menu, where I have several favorites! For starters, I am a huge fan of the Thai Spring Rolls -- a nice roll of rice paper (if that is the name for that transparent edible thing) well-stuffed with lettuce, shrimp, mint, chicken, and noodles. There must be an art to making these because I have had them at other restaurants where they show a distressing tendency to unroll while you're eating them. Not these -- they're obviously rolled by an expert! I could eat a platter of those and call it a night; but I usually eat one and share the other. (By the way, that peanut sauce is wonderful!) The Cha Sha Bau is another popular appetizer at our table -- steamed buns filled with pork with a slight BBQ taste. They smell terrific and taste even better! Moving on to the main dishes from the Regular Menu, I enjoy the Moo Shu Tofu. The tofu pieces are big and cooked just right, and there is easily enough food here for two or even three meals, so you're fixed for lunch or dinner for a couple of days. There's also a Mussman Curry, I think on the back page of the regular menu, which I like a lot. It's a little less spicy than you might find at other restaurants, which is okay with me. It's also a lot of food; I usually end up taking home about half, sometimes more.

  3. On a special occasion, we went with a group to partake in the "Chinese Hot Pot" which consists of a couple of different simmering-hot broths (one spice, one not) and platters full of thinly-sliced foods. You lower the food selection into the broth and it cooks right at the table. That was a very fun and interesting experience! (You have to give them notice if you want to try Hot Pot, I think it's 24 hours but you should check on that.)

  4. On another occasion we hosted a small party of folks, some of whom were vegetarian, for a birthday lunch. The staff was very helpful in explaining the vegetarian options and everything was delicious!

  5. There is a small room just to the left of the front door which can be reserved for small dinner parties or lunch get-togethers. It is nice to have this option because you can all hear one another talk while you're enjoying your food.

  6. I can't review the buffet or the delivery service, having never tried them, but I have heard that the delivery is very fast. Frankly I've never understood the appeal of a buffet when there is a chef waiting in the kitchen to cook you something fresh and personalized, but I know some people like the variety on a buffet, so I'll let the other reviewers talk about that!

  7. You couldn't ask for a more pleasant, friendly staff. They treat us almost like family or at least like long-absent friends. The wait staff is very helpful when it comes to describing an unfamiliar dish or (in the case of my dining companion) asking the kitchen to increase the spiciness level!

Five stars for this Lawrence favorite!