The city dwellers have lately developed affection for South East Asian cuisine and have started to fit in Thai or Burmese food beside the Chinese delicacies which has been ruling the Kolkata culinary scenarios for decades now. You will find several new eateries or grandiose restaurants coming up in the city serving these soul-pleasing Asian dishes. Some of the old eateries have remodeled and realigned themselves to fit in into this segment which is really trending these days among foodies. In some recent blog post I have expressed my love for these cuisines and how I can have them everyday, if it’s well prepared and comes close enough to the authentic dishes. I do cook them back at home as well to satiate my cravings at odd hours! And every time one such eatery opens up in the city, I somehow make it a point to visit them at least once. Recently, I came across one such eatery called ‘Red Panda’ which is less than an year old now. They serve most of these South East Asian cuisines with an emphasis on the Chinese cuisine and have got an enormous menu which is sure to impress you. In fact, they are trying to serve the typical Indo-Chinese cuisine as well which is popular in Kolkata. Most importantly, they won’t burn a hole in your pocket. The prices are extremely reasonable keeping in mind the quality and quantity served.
The eatery is located off EM Buypass in the Ajoy Nagar area close to the Udita apartments (and Metropolis Mall), unpleasantly flanked by some FL shops. I was invited by the management for a food tasting session, and since I had never been to this place before I relied on Google maps, and it guided me perfectly to this place. The place mainly specializes in home delivery and take-away. I would in fact recommend the take-away more than the dine-in option.
Well, if you really want to go for dine-in, then you have to climb a flight of wooden stairs to a mezzanine floor dine-in place that has four tables as of now, the place is pretty small but I must say that it’s not at all cramped up. I guess one or two more 2-seaters can be fitted in this area for couples, maybe. The interiors are pretty simple, neat and warm with framed paintings on the walls. The major drawback is the extremely low ceiling height, which is uncommon for a restaurant. It won’t be easy for a 6 feet tall person to roam around or walk comfortably. Saying so, I might ignore this drawback (which is so stuck in my head!) since the place is pretty new and we should instead applaud this labor of love, which has produced an eating joint serving such flavorful dishes.
Now let us check out the food and beverages which were served for this tasting session. I must say the mocktails which were served still needs to be worked upon. The good point is – they are still trying out these beverages and are not there included in the existing menu. The mocktails we tried were – Blue Lagoon, Lime Soda, and Masala Cold Drinks. Out of these three, I was good with the Masala Cold Drinks which was a Coke based drink, and you will find this at many eateries or street side stalls around the city, it’s pretty easy to prepare at home as well. The Lime soda and Blue lagoon were okayish and can be worked upon.
Now let us come to the best part of this entire experience, and it’s the food. The food somehow exudes an honesty which can’t be explained and that really impressed me thoroughly. So, here are the food items I tried:
Grilled Chicken Drumsticks – This was one gem of a starter. I have already decided that I will pick this up when I am passing by or order it when I am at my friend’s place nearby. These chicken drumsticks were super-meaty and extremely succulent, the stuff was very well grilled and it was overall juicy, peppery and smoky, don’t miss this if you are at Red Panda. The tomato based sauce which is served along with this shouldn’t ever be required since this dish in itself is super flavorful.
Salt and Pepper Squid – This starter will surely please the sea food lovers and admirers of coastal cuisine. The squids were diced into rings, thinly covered with cornflower and tossed with minced garlic, chopped spring onions, pepper and soya sauce and served in generous portion. I really enjoyed the flavor; it should be an absolute hit. Only need to be careful about the cornflower coating to keep it a bit thinner.
Sliced Fish with roasted Chili and Sichuan pepper – This was a spicy and tangy starter comprising of six medium sized slices of Basa fish, pretty well tossed with diced onions, minced garlic, spring onions, red chilies, Sichuan pepper corns, soya and other sauces. Overall it is one perfect starter and you can surely try this out.
Thai Green curry (with steamed rice) – Since I have been cooking Thai red and green curry at my home from scratch for couple of years now, I pretty well know this dish from every possible angle 🙂 Here the dish was nicely prepared and the taste was appreciable, aroma was nice as well. The proportion of coriander, lemongrass, kaffir lime, sweet basil and coconut milk was quite perfect though the aroma can still be enhanced. Here the gravy was not very runny which is fine. The veggies and chicken in there were well prepared and no special mention needs to be made about them. Overall, this should be a lovely dish which you can relish with some freshly steamed rice. And yes, the quantity served was good enough for two people.
Lemon Butter Fish – This lemon butter fish was served with slightly tossed herb rice and sautéed veggies. The stuff tasted nice, thick and soothing, and garnished with thin sliced lemons on top. The basa fish used in there could have been more soft and flaky but still we quite enjoyed having it. The rice and veggies were the perfect accompanies to go with this fish.
Special Chicken Sizzler – I really didn’t expect that this place would be serving sizzlers, so this was a pleasant surprise for me. This Chinese sizzler had loads of chicken in there with fried rice, poached egg and tossed veggies like bell peppers, carrots, beans, cabbage leaves, etc. The chicken was extremely succulent and super soft! Loved every bit of this dish!
Overall, I will rate this place close to 4.25 out of 5, which is pretty high according to my evaluation barometer! The ‘value for money’ factor is pretty high at this joint; it’s really hard to be disheartened after dining at this place, especially after checking out the bill! 🙂 Saying so, there are also some scopes of improvement and hopefully the points highlighted in the review would be worked upon. The biggest plus is definitely the food, and the huge quantity they are served in. As already said, the price is another key factor which should always be kept reasonable, like it is now unless they move to a bigger place, maybe in future. The service was really nice and friendly. The warmth with which the food items were served somehow gave the entire experience a homely touch. You won’t get that everywhere in the city. There is a big basket of generosity hidden in this lovely little den of red panda! So, do try them out guys!
What: Red Panda restaurant
Where: 1050/2, EM Bypass, Survey Park (Ajoy Nagar area), Kolkata
Pricing: INR 500 for two, approx
Plus points: Food quantity, Food quality, Pricing, hospitality
Improvements: Better dining area, mocktails
My Rating: 4.25 out of 5
Verdict: It’s a hidden gem, worth a visit. A value for money eating joint.
P.S. Picture Credit goes to Oendrila!