Monday, April 9, 2012

Green Panda Café

The Location: 3220 N University Avenue, Provo. A little out of the way in an area not well traveled by BYU students, but definitely accessible.

The Atmosphere: Green Panda Café lives up to its name: everything is green, and pandas are everywhere.  The tree at the center of the restaurant houses 21 stuffed panda toys at last count, and there are lime green accents everywhere in the small shop. It doesn't reach the level of obnoxious, though, which is good.

There's a relaxed, laid-back feel to this place. It's usually not that busy [I'm hoping this review will get the word out!], so it's quiet and an easy place to converse.

The Staff: Chinese food has lived at this address for years. A Taiwanese family started the place as Cooking Taste Right, then later changed the name to Munchies, and finally to Pon Pon House. In the summer of 2011, the current owners purchased the place and remodeled. Bob, an American, manages the place and often helps cook. His wife is from Hualien, Taiwan, and cooks all the meals. Their daughter Angie works the front of the store. They care about their customers, and they are willing to help  however they can. Very nice family.

The Food: I've been here many times, so I can't really list everything I've had. I love the fried rice dishes. On March 19, I ordered the popcorn chicken fried rice as pictured below:

[As a warning/good omen, the fried rice plates are huge. I usually eat only half of it and take the other half home for lunch the next day.] The popcorn chicken is well seasoned. The fried rice is fresh and hot. Honestly, it's not very good when microwaved a day or two later--fried rice is moister and easier to eat when it is freshly fried, so that's unavoidable. I lived in Taiwan for two years, and I can tell you that this is authentic Taiwanese cooking.

My friend ate the Sesame Chicken Rice Bowl pictured above. Categorized under Rice Bowls and not Fried Rice, her portion size was about half of mine. Sesame chicken itself is a safe option--Americans are generally familiar with it in regards to Chinese food. If you don't feel that adventurous, this or the orange chicken are good choices. The sesame chicken had a nice flavor to it, which was helped even more by the sweet-and-sour sauce that accompanied the dish.

Good news:

If you check in on Facebook, you get a free spring roll with your order! Rad. You can choose between  vegetable [left] or pork [right, artistically partially eaten]. I normally order the pork spring roll, so I opted for the veggie this time around. I noticed the skin of the vegetable roll is very smooth, whereas the pork roll's wrap is much bumpier. Both are crispy, though I guess the veggie roll is a tad flakier. Both are delicious.

The Verdict: Four bananas. This has been my go-to Chinese place in Provo for two and a half years now [guess how long I've been home from my mission!]. It's popular with missionaries who served in Taiwan, so don't be surprised if you overhear Chinese conversations. The food is reasonably priced, and it's all very Taiwanese-style. [An explanation, though not a very good one: most Americans are used to Peking (Beijing) style of Chinese food, which is more northern and has slightly different methods. I don't cook food; I just eat it--thus I'm not very qualified to describe the difference.] If your experiences with Chinese cooking are limited to Panda Express, it's time to try something more real.

Read more reviews here:
Green Panda Cafe on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is THE BEST Chinese restaurant in Utah Valley bar none. It is authentic in its flavors and smells. If you've ever been to Taiwan you'll immediately feel like you're in a sidewalk cafe in any Taiwan city.

If you haven't tried it yet you're missing out. Just my opinion. I actually travel from Sandy Utah down to Provo just to eat there. It's THAT good.