Hello, Pink Panda.
Located at the former Crisp on 28th, Pink Panda would be hard to miss with its neon pink signage of panda eyes staring at each one that passes by its facade.
The interiors too are adorable and made it more evident what cuisines this establishment offers.
And if you're following the crazy food scene we have in Manila, you'd know that Pink Panda is no new player. It started back in Makati and has been known for its cute Pokemon buns (back when Pokemon Go was a craze) and Instagram-worthy dishes. However, I've been iffy to try it as the dishes were pretty and I can't seem to get rid of the notion that charming food and good food usually do not go together. I've been lured by countless photogenic dishes only to disappoint my taste buds. But I seem to can't get away from the panda's big pink eyes and I found myself in front of its newest branch one Monday night.
For this visit, my foodie friends and I tried Dynamite Springroll (PHP160), Adobo Nachos (PHP220), Mom's Sisig (PHP280), Tokwa't Baboy (PHP180), Mango and Catfish Salad (PHP225), Thai Beef Salad (PHP320), White Pork Adobo (PHP340), Chicken Sambal (PHP340), Grilled Chicken Sate (PHP195, 3 pieces | PHP375, 8 pieces), Grilled Tuna Belly (PHP420), Gising Gising (PHP220), Sizzling Kare-Kare (PHP360) and Tumeric Rice (PHP45). For dessert, we sampled Turon with Queso Ice Cream (PHP120), Chocolate Buchi (PHP120, 4 pieces) and Mais con Leche (PHP160). I settled with Buko Shake with Ube Ice Cream (PHP165) for my drink.
I was a bit worried to take a bite of Dynamite Springroll as anything with the word 'dynamite' means spicy to me. True enough, this dish has finger green chili but it was added not to make the dish hot but to add flavor to the delectable appetizer. It beautifully complemented the minced pork with cheese stuffing making me think of grabbing another piece. I had to resist though as there were several other dishes waiting to be devoured.
Adobo Nachos was something new to me. I've never had my nachos localized like this. Pink Panda added Filipino touch to the well-loved snack by changing the usual ground beef and salsa into crispy adobo flakes and mango and salted egg salsa.
Though topping your tortilla chip with too much sauce could make each mouthful too salty, I wouldn't mind finishing half or even one whole order on my own! Rich in texture and flavor, this is one must order dish.
Mom's Sisig was more straightforward compared to the other two dishes till I had a bite of tofu and kangkong. I've never had sisig with these healthy ingredients mixed in the sinful chopped pork belly and I have to admit, it was a refreshing way to enjoy this famous beer chow.
I wasn't able to try Tokwa't Baboy topped with chili and paired with spiced vinegar. But based on how fast it was finished, it must have been really good.
I also skipped Chicken Sambal as its intimidating bright orange hue made me think that it would be super spicy. And I guess, I'll never know.
The Mango and Catfish Salad is a great starter too with its slight tangy taste from the honey lime dressing. Though I've had better catfish salad, this is probably one of the most reasonably priced salad bowls, considering that it's in BGC.
If you prefer something meaty with your greens, you'd enjoy Thai Beef Salad which is a mix of grilled steak, basil, cucumber, tomato, carrots, jicama and roasted rice. This bowl of complex textures and flavors will definitely whet your appetite and make you look forward for mains.
I'm a big fan of the Filipino classic adobo but I'm more used to its traditional version. Pink Panda on the other hand tweaked it a bit and turned it white by incorporating coconut milk and soy egg in the recipe. And instead of boiled or pan seared pork chunks, this white adobo uses crispy pork belly making it even more addicting.
One of my favorite dishes during my visit was the Grilled Chicken Sate.
Each bite of the marinated chicken skewers was bursting with sweet and peanuty flavors.
A perfect dish for Lent would be Pink Panda's Grilled Tuna Belly served with roasted garlic chips. It has this zesty taste with a bit of heat thanks to its lime chili dip.
I usually get Gising Gising whenever I see it in the menu and I was looking forward on how Pink Panda would make it different. However, it seemed that the only thing added to this delectable dish was kangkong which didn't really change the taste. It was great though.
Another dish that didn't have much twist to it yet won my heart was its sizzling kare-kare. The tender beef brisket and ox tripe with banana heart had this delectable peanuty flavor that kare-kare is known for.
It also went beautifully well with tumeric rice.
For desserts, we had classic Pinoy favorites turon and mais con hielo but made differently by adding queso ice cream on turon and yema custard on shredded corn.
Both had the right level of sweetness making it a great way to cap your meal. Between the two, I liked mais con leche more. The yema custard was an absolute winner and I would love to have this again soon!
My drink, Buko Shake with Ube Ice Cream could serve as a great dessert!
Pink Panda's chocolate buchi was lovely too though I prefer the more local counterparts for my sweet ending.
Overall, it was a fantastic dinner and I will surely be back to try the other dishes!