Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Red Panda Si Chuan, Darebin by Big Fil

I'd never actually been to Preston before, but made the trip to visit Red Panda with some friends who had spoken highly about it. It could have been that my friends had been a number of times and knew what to order from the fairly lengthy menu, but I found the quality of the food a big step up from the normal suburban Chinese eatery.

Favourite dish of the day was the salted fish with fried vermicelli. Salted fish is commonly used in a number of cuisines around the world but wouldn't be very familiar to most Australians. It is strongly flavoured and can overpower a dish if overused but I found that this dish was nicely balanced in flavour, very well cooked and bright and cheerful looking on the plate. In fact one of us commented that she would come back specially to order this again.

Also very good was the preserved cabbage with shredded pork and noodles in soup. The soup itself was a bit too salty but the pork was good and the noodles excellent. I don't often order Chinese noodle soups as I normally prefer dry noodles but I'd more than happily have this again.

Not as good was diced chicken with peanuts and preserved vegetables. Nothing wrong with the dish, but unlike the previous two it just didn't have anything that stood out about it.

The Shanghai pork mini buns (shao long bao) were different to those served by most restaurants around the city. These were smaller, less delicate in presentation and served without vinegar or ginger. Little bags of flavour sized to be eaten in the one bite.

The deep fried Peking pork dumplings were also good, nicely crispy on the outside, moist on the inside and with a meaty pork flavour.

The fried sliced rice cake with shredded pork was a bit oily, as this dish always is, even when we had asked for it to be cooked with a bit less oil. I find with this dish it's more about the texture, with the slightly slippery coating of the rice cakes contrasting with their firm texture.

We finished off the meal with spring onion and red bean pancakes. These are very simple dishes but those at Red Panda were probably the best I have tried: crispy, not too oily (given they are fried) and still moist on the inside. In particular I liked the red bean pancake, a dish I don't always like, because of the delicate flavour of the red beans.

It could have been a bit of a perfect storm moment - ordering only the better dishes on the menu and avoiding those which weren't so good, fellow diners who knew the owner/manager and the restaurant being quiet - but I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of our meal given the very reasonable prices. The dishes looked like they had been prepared with care and skill, service was efficient if a little distant and the setting pleasant. Somewhere that I'd regularly visit if closer to home, and will keep in mind as a possible meeting place when visiting friends on that side of town.

Food - 8
Price - 8
Service - 7
Ambience - 7

451 High Street
Darebin VIC 3072
Ph: (03) 9478 2853

Red Panda Si Chuan Restaurant on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We tried this restaurant (while L was at a ballet concert) and enjoyed it. We also enjoyed the shao long bao and spring onion pancake - and tried the shredded pork in vermicelli in spicy XO sauce. This was nice - the pork, egg, etc was well mixed in so there was always meat etc as noodles. The red bean pancake was very nice!!!

Iron man

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