Panda Express: Fast Casual American-Chinese Restaurant | Lady & her Sweet Escapes

Nov 10, 2014

Panda Express: Fast Casual American-Chinese Restaurant

Panda Express, the largest and the leading American-Chinese Food Chain in the US, has arrived in the UAE. That's definitely something to celebrate. In a city with a fast-paced lifestyle and rising commodity prices, we need more casual restaurants that can quickly serve budget-friendly meals without compromising the quality. Panda Express is one! 

In the year 1973, Panda Express' founder Andrew Cherng, together with his father Master Chef Ming-Tsai Cherng, opened Panda Inn; a Chinese fine-dining restaurant in Pasadena. It was where they introduced the full-flavored Mandarin and Szechuan dishes to Southern California. 10 years later, year 1983, they launched a new restaurant with a different concept. It was where guests can have the same premium dishes, but served in a faster way and in a more casual atmosphere. That's how Panda Express started... and the rest is history!

Panda Express in Al Ghurair
Panda Express in Al Ghurair

Panda Express in Al Ghurair: The First GCC Outlet
Panda Express became a well-love Chinese food chain and is still continuously growing. At present, Panda Express serves quality Chinese dishes fast and fresh in over 1,600 restaurants in 47 States and abroad; the UAE included! The first GCC outlet opened in Al Ghurair Centre in Dubai last October, and the second outlet in JBR is scheduled to open at the end of the year.

Two Saturdays ago, I visited Panda Express for the first time. I immediately fell in love with the concept. It's a cross between the humble Chinese food chain in the food courts and the lavish Chinese gourmet restaurants in big malls. There's an express counter where the freshly-cooked entrees are displayed and a pleasant seating area where guests can dine in utmost comfort. 

Panda Express restaurant counter in Dubai
a counter of delicious Chinese dishes 
Panda Express Chinese Restaurant
America's fave is finally here! :)

Family Day at Panda Express
My first visit was during Panda Express' Family Day event. That day, Ed was tied up with work, so I went to the event with a friend whom I consider a member of my huge non-blood related family in the UAE. :)

When we arrived. kids were already transformed into tigers and butterflies. I'm talking about face-painting! :) As soon as we sat in a leather couch, the foodie fun commenced. It started with a guessing game that everyone enjoyed. Fourteen Panda Express' specialties were brought to our table one after the other, and we had to guess each one. 

Family day at Panda Express UAE
Guess the Dish game during the Panda Express' family day
bloggers at Panda Express UAE
bloggers at Panda Express

I have never experience a food tasting as fun as what we had at Panda Express. It was merely a guessing game, but it sure was a wonderful opportunity for us to try the restaurant's specialties. I actually made a mental note on what I'm going to take home for Ed and what I'll be having for a proper meal next time.

It was then followed by a chopsticks game. Each guest has a bowl of fried rice and the first person who can transfer the rice to another bowl wins the game! I didn't win, but it's fine. I still got to eat the yummy fried rice after the fun anyway, and I also received a Panda Express gift card for a meal for two! Yay!

Lady at Panda Express UAE
savoring and guessing Panda Express' bestsellers with a friend

Weekend Dinner at Panda Express
I was excited to bring Ed to my new foodie discovery. So, last weekend, I went back to Panda Express with him. And since we got an extra gift card, Ed and I opted to share it with two of our blog readers; John Eric and Tel. It's funny how they call themselves "followers", but in my little blog world I don't see them as such. They inspire me to keep this blog running, so I'd rather call them my online friends who walk along with me in my blogging journey.    

dinner at Panda Express Al Ghurair
at the express counter with John and Tel

It was seven in the evening when we arrived at Panda Express. We were warmly greeted by the staff and were assisted straightaway to the food counter. We were informed that each of us will get a Panda Plate #2 which includes two mains paired with fried rice or chow mein (noodles) or half portion of each. 

I went with my favorites, Honey Walnut Shrimp and Grilled Teriyaki Chicken with half rice and half noodles. Ed chose Panda Express' best seller Orange Chicken and Surf n Turf; another fave of mine. I didn't quite hear what John and Tel got as I already went crazy over the Panda Bites or the appetizers when it was their turn to choose. 

Panda Express fried rice
a pile of fried rice
Panda Express Chinese food
a massive serving of Chinese food at a reasonable price

We were all delightfully amazed with the hefty serving. One must be very very hungry to consume Panda Plate #2! I was as I nearly finished mine. :)

The cream cheese rangoon gave my meal a great start! The golden wontons filled with cream cheese filling are little pieces of heaven. It's crispy outside, creamy inside; very unique and insanely delicious. An alternative for those who are counting calories is the veggie spring roll. It's light and healthy, packed with a distinct taste that's quite incomparable to the Filipino-Chinese spring roll that I grew up with.    

veggie spring rolls and cream cheese rangoons
veggie spring rolls and cream cheese rangoons

As for the mains, Honey Walnut Shrimp tops my Panda Express favorite list. I can't get enough of the shrimps coated with crispy thin batter, tossed with glazed walnuts, and drizzled with gourmet honey sauce. It may not be as savory as other Panda Express' specialties, but it's perfect for me who's inclined to sweet and subtle flavors. 

For the discerning palate, I think Grilled Teriyaki chicken is the best choice. It's big on flavor and comes with sweet and savory sauce. Other than Panda Express' top-selling dishes Orange Chicken and Beijing BeefSurf n Turf is another unique dish that I highly recommend. It has marinated shrimps and Angus steak in one dish! 

And so, last week wonderfully ended with new foodie favorites in the freshly-opened Panda Express and fun conversation with newfound friends!  
fast casual dinner at Panda Express
a fun casual double date at Panda Express :)

Panda Plate #2: 39 AED
Cream Cheese Rangoons (3 pieces): 10 AED
Veggie Spring Rolls (2 pieces): 10 AED

Panda Express
Al Ghurair Centre
Al Rigga, Dubai
Nearest Metro Station: Union (Red Line/Green Line)

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