Asian Panda Review
Review by Dan Purdon
I seem to be on a real Asian review kick lately, and Utah County is all to happy to oblige my addiction. Seriously, how many different Asian restaurants are there in the UC? I’m pretty sure it’s physically impossible to count them – one of the ever-shifting mysteries of our age. Just when you think you have them all accounted for, BAM! Five more open right across the street from your house.
Keen to keep my streak going, this weekend I jumped into the car with my wife and paid a visit to the new Asian Panda restaurant on 800 N in Orem. This particular restaurant’s existence kind of snuck up on me (just like the rest of the sprawling shopping district that surrounds it did). From the outside it looks to be a typical shopping plaza-type Chinese restaurant, but once you’re inside, you find yourself in the middle of a posh combination of modern decor and classical Oriental touches, like a the bamboo fountain at the door and colorful Asian-style artwork adorning the walls.
We settled down at a table by the window and started looking over the menu. Our server informed us that we were still in time for the lunch specials, meaning that every one of the entree listings (except those containing shrimp) were only $5.75. But that wasn’t all! On top of that, every roll on the sushi menus was buy-two-get-one-free! We needed no further encouragement. We ordered a trio of sushi rolls (unagi roll, spicy salmon roll, and tempura shrimp roll) and an entree of Beef Udon for the lunch special. And to top it off, I just had to throw on an order for salmon nigiri sushi. I am a SUCKER for salmon whenever I spot it on a menu.
Our Beef Udon came out first with a veggie egg roll on the side. For those of you who have never had the chance to try udon noodles, I recommend giving them a shot. Udon noodles themselves are fat, white and slightly chewy, and they are served in a savory broth with plenty of veggies and your choice of meat. It’s a world apart from our typical view of pasta or noodles, and yet it’s strangely comforting. As soon as you take your first slurp, you can see why this is a staple food of the East. It’s hot, filling, and pretty much serves as an entire meal in itself. If you do decide to try it out, Asian Panda is a worthy place to do it. The broth was nice and flavorful, the noodles were just right, and the veggies were lightly sauteed. Very nice.
Now, as a general rule I don’t have the highest expectations for sushi that comes from any kind of “combo-genre” restaurant. But all three of our sushi selections here were really stellar; they could easily hold their own against the full-time sushi guys. The unagi tasted like unagi should – savory broiled eel with sweet and salty sauce, plus ripe avocado for balance. The spicy salmon was fresh and had a pleasant kick that kept you nice and warm. (Note: spicy tuna is great and all, but when you see the more illusive spicy salmon roll on a menu, I suggest you try it if you have any love of salmon at all. It’s delicious!) And the tempura shrimp was two big crispy-fried shrimps interwoven with refreshing cucumber and a tasty sauce. All three rolls were definite hits in my book. And as for the dealbreaker/maker: the salmon nigiri was fresh, flavorful, and delicious. Good work.
Pricing: Avg. $10 per person for sushi, $5.75 for lunch.
Asian Panda – 1166 W 800 N in Orem (by WinCo Foods)