Cheesy noodles, salted egg rice, baos, and egg waffle treats are waiting for you in this new restaurant in SM Megamall.
Yo! Panda opens its doors today to the public, eager to let everyone taste their playful takes on Asian food. The establishment is a family affair -- siblings Prim Chua, Kriscia Co and Spencer Co teamed up for this food concept, which has been in the works for over a year now. "We've always wanted to open a restaurant but for the longest time, couldn't find the right concept," shares Spencer, the youngest among the three. He shares that a trip to Hong Kong was what finally inspired them: they enjoyed eating the bubble waffles so much and realized, there are very few that offer these crisp egg puffs back home. "We also wanted to improve and make it different among whatever is being sold here, and we wanted a restaurant that will revolve around this snack."
Their take on the Hong Kong street food snack is properly crisp on its thin edges, the puffed up 'eggs' chewy and soft. Crunch meets springy pockets of cake, making their Bubble Waffle (P95) a filling treat. It also comes in Chocolate (P110) and Matcha (P110), and a sweet-meets-salty combination of Pork Floss and Cheese (P120). Yo! Panda uses organic eggs and fresh ingredients, and the waffles are cooked upon order so that it's hot and crispy when you sink your teeth into it.
They amp up their bubble waffle game by taking it for a spin with soft serve Italian gelato, in either Vanilla, Chocolate, or Twist (vanilla + chocolate), and adding more toppings. Vanilla Soft Serve Bubble Waffle (P180) has a mild sweetness and never cloys, while the Chocolate Soft Serve Bubble Waffle (P200) leans toward the darker chocolate -- the owners made it a point to not overwhelm with the sugary sweetness, as this is their personal preference. Chocoholics will enjoy the Chocolate Fudge with its multi-textured happiness in every spoonful--the bubble waffle is dunked into your soft serve flavor of choice, served with chunks of moist and chewy fudge brownies, crispy chocolate clusters, and a drizzle of hot chocolate fudge cream. During their dry run and testings, Mango Cheesecake was a favorite and it was easy to see why -- their desserts are good for sharing and this one was generous with toppings of cheesecake cubes, and mango slices. It was a lot of fun alternating the spoonfuls of soft serve with a bite of the waffle.
While Yo! Panda was first conceptualized as a dessert place, eventually, a savory food lineup was developed that also keeps everything fun and playful like their hip panda mascot who dons a pair of sunglasses and rocks an afro. For appetizers, don't skip the Shrimp & Cheese Balls (P290), crunchy on the outside and with a warm and cheesy filling. It's topped with pork floss and served with a dipping sauce of sweet soy and Japanese mayo. Their Cheese Fire Chicken (P320) is something for the folks craving more heat in their food, crispy boneless chicken chunks are battered and tossed in sweet and spicy Korean sauce (gochujang), with melted cheese served on a sizzling plate. Chase it with their Premium Hong Kong Milk Tea (P130), which comes sitting on a bowl of ice so your drink keeps chilled yet does not dilute in flavor compared to when the ice is swimming on your drink.
From bubble waffles, now we move on to baos -- small sandwiches of fluffy white steamed bao that come with different fillings. Each order is less than P200, and there are flavors like adobo, fried chicken, fish, and Burger Bao (P195) which was just delightful to eat as much as it is colorful. The burger patty is topped with a sunny side up organic egg, and comes with Japanese pickles, shredded lettuce, Japanese mayo, and plum sauce -- it's savory, sweet, a little salty, with some spikes of acid. For a more classic Asian dish, Yo! Panda tames it with the playfulness and keeps it more traditional with their Cantonese Style Beef Brisket (P280) -- a comforting rice bowl with tendon, braised radish, and soft soy organic egg. It's something one can easily crave for during a rainy day.
Rice bowls at the restaurant may be upgraded to salted egg butter rice (add P40), and don't make the mistake of eating here without having a taste of this rice -- it's absolutely killer when you order it with their Scallion Chicken Chop (P230)! The crispy fried boneless chicken chop is served Taiwanese style, and served with sunny side up organic egg and a Korean green onion salad. The morsels of rice have this rich coating of that mild saltiness and chalkiness of salted egg, heightened with butter. It will make you eat more and more, and the crunch of the chicken makes every spoonful just so delicious.
Another must-not-miss is the Crispy Pork Chop with Cheese Sauce and Noodles (P280). The pork chop gets the same crunchy treatment as the chicken chop and is also partnered with a sunny side up egg. Replacing rice is this luscious serving of egg noodles swimming in cheese sauce -- every hungry slurp of it was so rewarding, I imagine the feeling would even be twofold if one had a stressful day or is out on the hunt for the best cheat meal out there. Yo! Panda may have started out with their delicious desserts, but I'm glad they didn't stop there -- have a seat inside this restaurant and come in hungry, as they give you good reasons to chow on some fun and modern Asian grub.
Yo! Panda is now open, located on the 4th Floor of building A in SM Megamall. Call 0917-8942633 and 718-3796, and follow on Facebook (Yo Panda Manila) and Instagram (@yopandamanila).