'Where is Pink Panda?'
'Pink Panda? How cute! But wait--why is the panda pink?'
Well, why not? That is exactly what Pink Panda is all about: putting fun twists and quirky flair to something you're used to, transforming it into something new and interesting.
Hidden just nearby Makati Avenue, this modern Southeast Asian diner may be quite hard to find if you're not familiar with the inner streets, but that's part of the charm. You'll spot the restaurant at the ground level of Y2 Residence Hotel, the building just across A.Venue Mall, or just across MNL Hostel, as it is located at the corner of Santiago and B. Valdez. At night, it's easier to see Pink Panda from afar with its neon pink sign illuminating the wood accents of its exterior. Like its name, Pink Panda keeps up with its playfulness with their interior design, with quirky knick knacks and interesting details adorning their walls and ceiling. It's as if they've brought the vibe of a busy Asian street at night into the restaurant with the jeepneys, bikes, metal pipes, and what not.
If you're as playful with your palate as the restaurant is with their dishes, then Pink Panda is made for fun foodies just like you. Grab a hold of their menu and enjoy reading the fun (and punny!) names of their food items. If you find yourself having a hard time choosing what to order, here are some of their best-sellers since opening day and new menu items that are a must-try.
Dimsum and Then Some (P350)
This appetizer might not look that much in pictures: a bowl where assorted dim sum are tossed, swimming in sauce. But each dumpling holds different stuffings and flavors--there's Spicy Shrimp, Pork Mushroom, Kuchay Shrimp, Pumpkin and Shrimp, and Hakaw. The play of sweet, citrusy, and spicy of the chili garlic ponzu makes these nouveau treats extra addicting, you might realize you've finished the bowl all on your own. Don't forget to share.
Prawn Toasties and Tom Yum Shots (P320)
Here's another appetizer you'll be temped to eat all on your own: four shots of lip-smacking tom yum (sour prawn and mushroom broth) with sesame shrimp toast canapes. Dip the crisp toast into the soup, let it soak through and through, then bite into the piece of bread. You may discover that partaking on the popular Thai hot and sour soup is even more enjoyable this way. I suppose placing them in four shot glasses is for sharing purposes, but I imagine ordering this all for my own belly. Tom yummy!
Xiao Lang Boom (P240)
What do you get when your traditional little xiao long bao is on steroids? This whopper of a soup dumpling by Pink Panda. This soup bomb of pork and shrimp broth is a tummy pleaser, and a splash of the ginger with Chinese black vinegar adds some depth to its flavor.
Crispy Beef Rendang (P430)
This is my favorite discovery at Pink Panda, because it takes a traditional Indonesian dish and translates it into something that I find even better than its original counterpart. I can imagine the chefs at the kitchen enjoying their task of playful deviation from typical Southeast Asian dishes--this is what Pink Panda is all about. Rendang is already loaded with spices and a medley of flavors, so to make the caramelized beef crispy--a food attribute ever so popular with the Filipino palate--makes this dish a star. You'll want to order rice for this one, as each bite packs a flavorful punch.
Seafood Pho Tha Hoe (P460)
Take the sweet and sour broth of the tom yum shots, and place it on a teapot and a bowl. Now load the bowl of soup with some rice noodles, and generously top with shrimps, crabsticks, squid balls,vegetables, herbs, and spices. It's Pink Panda's Thai-Vietnamese mashup that is definitely for the adventurous palates up for some flavor bombs of spicy, sweet, and sour.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Pink Panda introduced 8 new items on their menu. For the lunch crowd, their Express Lunch menu is perfect for your P250 budget for a quick but filling meal. Pink Panda recently offered their Crab Mentality limited run menu which showcased a live crab station and a set dinner with assorted crab dishes. This was a hit among the customers that they've decided to regularly offer Live Crabs (P180/100g) in the restaurant. You can have the crab prepared in a variety of ways: Singaporean Chili Crab, Sweet Chili Sambal, Thai Red Coconut Curry, Butter Ginger Lemon, and Black Pepper Crab.
Chilled Tofu (P285)
Traditionally, this Chinese tofu appetizer is accompanied by chili oil and century egg. Pink Panda adds two more kinds of eggs with the Japanese silken tofu in their rendition--quail egg and salted egg--which gives it different kinds of textures and saltiness. The chili sauce has more sweetness as well to add some depth into this dish.
Indo Gyoza (P185)
Now here's a gyoza unlike any you've tried. Indo Gyoza borrows the Japanese dumpling's wrapper for the stuffing of chicken marinated in peanut sauce with a little spice. Imagine if you will chicken satay that instead of served in skewers, are prepared as gyoza. Dip the Indo Gyoza into the sauce made with peanut, lime, and shallots to add more flavor in every bite.
Shrimp and Tanigue Sambal Kebabs (P525)
If you're craving for seafood with a lot of texture and spice, order this new menu item. The skewers of shrimp and tanigue are extra tasty with sambal, and becomes a hefty meal as it is loaded with peppers, onions, and cherry tomatoes. The Pinoy in you will make you crave some white rice with this just like the rendang, as every bite is very flavor-loaded.
Great Balls of Furry (P220)
How fun is it to call a waiter to order yourself some Great Balls of Furry? Where else can you say that out loud and have actual fuzzy balls of dessert sent to your table? "Sir waiter, I am famished. I need some sustenance that only Balls of Furry can provide." Only at Pink Panda, my fellow foodies. That aside, this is the restaurant's playful version of the steamed buchi. Instead of black bean cream inside, you get peanut butter and jelly. The furry part of this dessert is its outer coating of dessicated coconut, lending more texture and subtle flavor in every bite. End your feast at Pink Panda with this for a light but furry tasty treat.
Like Pink Panda on Facebook (/thepinkpandadiner), and follow them on Instagram and Twitter (@pinkpandamanila).
Additional images taken from Pink Panda Facebook page.