Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Getting Very Cheeky at Pink Panda #WhereIsPinkPanda

Where is Pink Panda? That's the question that has been going around for the past two weeks, so Jericho and I made it our life's mission (at least for this week) to discover where the hell the new Pink Panda Southeast Asian Diner is and what kind of food they serve.

As it turns out, Pink Panda is located right next to the A. Venue mall, at the Y2 Residence Hotel. We almost passed right by it, but stopped to admire the quirky bamboo furnishings and decor only to see the small pink sign outside. So that's where it was! We went through the bamboo door, having no idea what we were in for, taking a seat by the comfortable, tufted blue booth. As it turns out, this place has me written all over it: It's cute, cheeky, and neon pink!

If I were to describe the place, I'd say it looked like a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Hong Kong, with the exposed piping and plain concrete floor and very Asian aesthetics. The decor is cute and kitschy and "vely, vely Asian". Haha! I don't know how else to describe the rice paddy hats and occasional pink flamingo.

Sitting down to dinner with a few friends, we ordered almost everything off the non-alcoholic drinks list. The night was still young, after all. There was their naughty take on sweet iced tea, the Pink Panty (P110), a lemon-y Chai Iced Tea (P100), a very sweet Kopi Panda (P110), and a fizzy Almond Lime Juice (P80).

This particular restaurant is the baby of Erwan Heusaff, Chef Peter Ayson, Stephen Ku, and Raymond Magdaluyo of the Red Crab Group. But although Erwan may take charge of the drinks department t this joint, all the items on the menu has Peter's stamp of cheekiness all over it.

Dinner started with Dimsum and Then Some (P325) - four dumplings in a Chili Garlic Ponzu sauce. Your palate is constantly entertained with Spicy Shrimp Dumplings, Pork Mushroom Siu Mai, Kuchay Shrimp Dumplings, and Pumpkin and Shrimp! We had two bowls of these yet I think I polished off most of the Spicy Shrimp in both bowls. Oops.

The Wild Vietnamese Rolls (P190) were good, with the classic spring rolls done two ways - one side done fresh with a peanut-based dipping sauce, and the other fried 'til golden with a light vinegar dipping sauce. Both were nicely executed and not at all oily, although I liked the fresh one better because of the barely there mint aftertaste and peanut sauce.

Then our server laid the cutest thing ever in front of us - Panda Buns (P210)! The steamed pork buns were stuffed with really good bola-bola, mushroom and salted egg in an orange hoisin. There's no need for extra sauce. My biggest dilemma was having to bite into the cute panda face! It was staring up at me as if it were saying, "Please don't eated me." Aww. Burp.

I'm a sucker for catfish salad, so the Mango and Papaya Catfish (P360), this was a must for dinner. This had a trio of mangoes (ripe, green,and chewy?), green papaya, pomelo, crushed peanuts, shredded catfish, golden shallots, and fried banana flowers in a chili lime dressing. This is probably one of the best takes on catfish salad I have ever had here. so do order it when you come around.

Jericho spotted the Sambal Stingray (P345) on the menu and just had to try it, as stingray is a childhood favorite of his. I've never had stingray before, and this meaty beauty was char-grilled with a honey-sambal oelek, lemon grass and lime glaze. I initially assumed it would be really bony, but it was quite the opposite, and the spice of the sambal covered everything with a spicy hum.

The Puncak Chicken Sate (P340) reminded me of the Malaysian sate vendors in Johor, except this was a lot more refined than the old dudes going around in motorcycles, of course. Char-grilled chicken skewers are served with a roasted peanut sauce, fried shallots, and pickled vegetables. This was so good, I could've finished this off all on my own!

Another colorful dish at Pink Panda is the Vietnamese Pho Sho (P365)! This special pho has beef tendons, beef flank, rice noodles, seafood balls and mixed broth. It's so good, you don't even need the accompanying sauces to flavor the broth, really. If you're sharing a bowl, like we were, ask your server for another teapot of broth, so there's a lot to go around.

This was also comes with a bar, as are most restaurants co-owned by Erwan are, so we decided to try a few of his concoctions. The sweetest cocktail was supposed to be the Man Pink (P270) made with rye whiskey, Creme de Casis, bitters, and mure, but it was still quite potent for my taste. I could only take a few sips of the cocktail before handing it off to the next willing victim.

We all agreed the Slanted Sour (P250) was really good. The blend of whiskey, lemon juice, yuzu, ginger syrup, bitters, egg white, and soda tasted like we were drinking liquid Warheads. You're a kid of the 90's if you know what I'm talking about! Ooh, this drink made me pucker!

The Fangs & Bangs (P250) on the other hand was just weird. It was tart and weird. A blend of bourbon, Cointreau, apple tincture, bitters, and yuzu, I cannot begin to describe how this tasted. And to think, the bartender said this is what most ladies like to order! Whoever those ladies are, they must like sucking alcohol right out of the cotton swab. This was deadly!

For dessert, we had Panda's Balls (P220)! Five pieces of black and white sesame-coated buchi with a black bean mongo paste were served in a super cute hot pink bucket. Their chef let me in on a secret: they'll be coming out with peanut butter and jelly as well as dark chocolate-filled buchi soon! Ya'll know what I'm coming back for!

And lastly, we had the hybrid halo-halo-buko pandan, Mix Mix (P195). A coconut base is layered with pandan-flavored jelly and topped with creamy leche flan surrounded by panutsa, sago, nata de coco, red mango beans, and pinipig bits. This was the most Pinoy thing I had all night.

Thank you to the lovely Chef Siggy Torrente for taking such good care of my friends and I that night! We had a blast at Pink Panda and are already making plans to head back!

When mucking around Makati, search out Pink Panda next to A. Venue and have fun ordering the naughty items on the menu like Yuzu Honey (say that with an "Asian" accent) Chix and  Love You Long Time whilst your server tries to keep a straight face. I'll also be going back for some of General P's Chicken and the Crispy Beef Rendang!

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Pink Panda
G/F Y2 Residence Hotel,
4687 Santiago cor. B. Valdez sts.,
Makati City
Open Daily: 11am - 12mn