Trying out the test kitchen at Pando & Co.

New eateries in Perth seem to be opening on a weekly basis at the moment. If it’s not a new restaurant or bar, it’s a new food truck or market stand. I love how much choice we have at our fingertips, but it does present a few problems in my eyes. One, I just can’t choose where to eat anymore! My wishlist is getting ridiculously long. Two, we all start to suffer a bit from dish fatigue, where it seems like everyone is doing the same thing. And three, well some places just haven’t done the market research or their due diligence before opening their doors.

What I find very cool is the idea of a test kitchen. Small, intimate dining experiences where diners get to try a menu before a restaurant releases it to provide helpful feedback that will assist their food journey. When an old friend of mine told me he was starting a new business called Panda & Co. and they would be holding some test kitchens over October and November, I was intrigued.
And these nights caught the idea of Carly from Perth Munchkin, who promptly booked us in for a test dinner one night with our partners. So it was a double win – not only would we get to try some new pan-Asian food, we’d get to catch up. All for the price of $25.00 per head which sounded really decent to us!

Arriving at the share house on Leonard Street in Victoria Park we were met with a warm reception and for those who are caffeine inclined, a refreshing cold-drip coffee beverage. Before long we’re shown to our table which was towards the back of the restaurant and LOUD. But given the venue was chock-a-block full, it wasn’t surprising.

The Panda & Co. team were definitely in host mode, circling around the different tables and talking about their dishes. We were treated to a lovely riesling to accompany our meal, which was sweet and light – and not something I would traditionally match with Asian food myself.

Before long our first course came out (each course was presented to be shared between two diners) – Eurasian dumplings filled with beef and tomato, on a bed of chilli plum sauce.

These were a really popular dish amongst our group – and I have to say while I wasn’t sure what to expect, the pastry was lovely and thin, cooked crisp. The filling was generously full of shredded beef that was tender and spiced. I really enjoyed this, especially swishing it through that saccharine sauce.

The next dish was always going to please – and thankfully it delivered on the high expectations! The sweet and spicy Muay Thai chicken wings were steaming hot, and garnished with crushed peanuts for extra crunch in each bite. 
The best kind of chicken is always the wings (or the drumstick!) and I happily got my fingers satisfyingly sticky as I dug into these. I thought the sauce was well balanced and really went down a treat. 

My favourite dish for the evening was the phat prawn pad thai omelette – just thinking about it is making me hungry! The omelette was so perfectly crisp, with the pad thai inside a beautiful mound of noodles, pork, garlic chives and prawns. I really liked that there were quite a few prawns inside, and that there was so much flavour thanks to the addition of that barbecue sauce squeezed over the top.

The noodles were a bit mushy inside, which I can imagine is a risk when you’re cooking something hot and putting it inside something else hot – it continues cooking. But that aside, the execution was great and it really hit the spot.

I think there may have been some teething issues between the omelette and the final course – with the food coming out nearly an hour later. Not great considering it was getting late, but a little understandable since it was a test kitchen and they’re still finding their groove. Hopefully when they actually open up a proper restaurant down the track they have it nailed.

Our last dish was the chicken waffle burger with lotus root chips which sounded fantastic on the menu. After falling ridiculously in love with the soul sandwich (fried chicken in polenta waffles) at May Street Larder, there was a high benchmark to reach.

Starting off with the lotus root chips, I couldn’t help but compare these to the morish ones I devoured recently at Ria. They looked the part, but didn’t quite have the full crunch – and needed a little seasoning. I would have loved to see a few more, with a clever mayo (like yuzu or wasabi flavoured) on the side for dunking.

The burger itself was a little challenging to eat but once we squished it down we managed to wrap our mouths around it. The chicken was crisp and juicy – and the fresh vegetables complimented it nicely. I did think the waffle was a touch dry so would have loved more sauce… but I do love all things saucy!

Phew – what a meal! We were pretty full after this big feast and so quickly shot off straight after this course. But I loved that we got a little takeaway goodie bag with a panda cookie (remember those? Hello childhood!) and a packet of mi goreng. I’m definitely looking forward to trying out Panda & Co when they launch their business, from what I tried I think it has great potential!

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    18 January 2016 at 2:49 am

    I like the sound of this very much

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