Saturday, 8 May 2010
Panda Inn, Edinburgh
Good things come in small packages....
The Panda Inn is located in my favourite area of Edinburgh, the restaurant-packed Bruntsfield Place-Leven Street. On first glance, it looks like a chippy as it is small and unassuming, but on glancing at the menu, it is anything but a bland chippy. When my work colleague suggested organising a night out there, I jumped at the chance to sample these Cantonese delights.
Upon arriving at the restaurant, I felt like Alice in Wonderland when she ate the biscuit in the house and she grew! It was so small and can only seat about 25 people. This meant that the atmosphere was really cosy and proved that a restaurant doesn't need to be elaborately decorated to have atmosphere. I felt as if I was in the living room of the hosts as the kitchen was visible, separated only by a makeshift bar. The setting is incredibly informal, but please note if you want a private conversation, the lack of background music makes it almost impossible.
I ordered my beloved Chinese jasmine tea while I perused the menu. (I swear, I am addicted to this stuff now. Oh well, it's healthy, I'm allowed.)Wow, I was spoiled for choice! While my carnivorous colleagues ordered a meaty banquet, I headed straight to the veggie menu and ordered Vegetarian Hot and Sour soup to start, followed by Vegetables in Spicy Bean Sauce with egg fried rice.
Since I have been in Edinburgh, I have struggled to find the perfect Hot and Sour. The best I have ever had has been in Liverpool and Manchester, probably due to their fab Chinatowns and established Chinese community. I ordered the soup and waited in anticipation.....will it match up to its Liverpudlian and Mancunian brothers? Or will it prove that Edinburgh hot and sour is neither hot nor sour? This soup was crucial in my decision making..... OH MY GOD! This was the best H and S I have EVER had. In my whole life! It was hot. Fiery even, with the right amount of sour. The vegetables in it were abundant too, lots of sweetcorn, pea, carrot, everything in fact. This soup was a meal in itself. This soup was so good, it even wants to make me retract my last comment about northern English soup being the best! This was the king of H and S. There were even chopped green chillies.
Enough about my love for H and S. Now time for the main course. After the amazing soup, I was really looking forward to my main. The main was also a hot and spicy treat, the Vindaloo of Chinese restaurants you could say. It was a spicy bean sauce with a Szechuan base, packed with fried onions, minicorn, peppers, mushroom and much more. The carrots were carved into the shape of flowers, what a beautiful touch! I could feel it igniting my throat, the combination of this and the soup was such a pleasant feeling. Thank god I had copious amounts of Jasmine Tea on hand to extinguish the flames. The egg fried rice was beautiful and fluffy too and had finely chopped spring onions to add a bit of zing.
After such a sumptuous feast, there was no room for dessert but I glanced at the menu for future reference. The desserts are similar to Lee-On (see review) with classics like the Banana Boat, lychees and pineapple fritters.
Panda Inn, thank you for renewing my faith in Hot and Sour soup in the city. I will definitely be back in the near future as you can feed both my addictions- Chinese Tea and H and S!