One reviews a gadget, a film, one’s performances, but food is something that’s simply meant to be savoured. There are no two ways about it, Either you simply love a delicacy or despise it for leaving a bad taste in your mouth. So, be it a hawker or a any restaurant, your task is simply cut out. Cook the dish well or be prepared to gaze at empty tables.
For a foodie, I don’t jump into any restaurant, unless it’s highly recommended by friends.. I must thank my friend, Nasrin Sultana who spoke highly of a newly opened Chinese restaurant HUNGRY PANDA in 7 Bungalows, Versova. So, albeit unplanned, I took another friend along to satisfy our taste buds.
‘Hungry Panda’ isn’t your plush or spacious restaurant. It’s more of a joint, situated in a place where its surrounded by competition. Chiefly among them is the popular resto & pub, ‘Pop Tates’. Thus for a newbie, the task is simply cut out. You gotta hit the jackpot straight away or be prepared to pack up.
My friend and I walked in, but couldn’t find the table in the A/C room. A dampener to start with, but why whine on a Saturday. So, we perched ourselves out in the open.
Now it’s common to have the regional staff for a particular speciality restaurant, but that doesn’t always materialize into a pleasant experience. Often our brothers and sisters from the North East find it difficult to communicate in Hindi, whilst you need to be all ears, when they speak in their broken English. This often leads to confusion, an unwarranted distraction, especially when you are really hungry.
So, I must admit that the presence of an all North-East staff had me tad worried. However, we were so warmly greeted by one the staff, (a pretty girl) that I felt we’re likely to be well served here. Ok, now to business.
Up came the guy to take our order,. Like that girl, he, too, warmly greeted us. He recommended us to have a Burnt chicken for appetizer. Barely 10 minutes later, it was served on our table.
Burnt all black, it didn’t appeal much to me, but my friend really liked it. I liked the schezwan sauce more. Not too spicy, not too sweet. I even devoured the fried cred chilly too.
I was quickly done with the appetizer, and then we asked the staff for his recommendation. Initially, we tinkered with the idea of having Mandarin Noodles, that has gravy with it, but somehow I wasn’t convinced and so we ordered Hungry Panda Special Noodles (Chicken), while we decided to go by the staffs’ recommendation of Sohu Chicken for gravy.
1o minutes later, it was on our table. Oh boy, the aroma of the noodles was irresistible. The quantity meant that one of us will have to take the left over home.
Filled with chunks of burnt garlic, tender chicken, mushroom, and having a fair sprinkling of spring onions, I’ve never tasted such great noodles at Mainland China, Aromas of China or any speciality Chinese restaurant.
The Sohu chicken was sweet and mildly spicy,, but blended perfectly with the special noodles. We ate half the quantity, and already our bellies were full. I so badly wanted to have more, but over eating can be a dangerous proposition.
The quality of the noodles and the gravy were simply top notch. But what appealed me more was the quality of service, that is often found wanting in some 5-star restaurants too. While the male staff spoke in broken English, his humility, his warmth won us over.
Often while dining, customers then to pile up tissues on the table, which is only cleared after you ask them to get the check, but here I was alarmed as the moment you used the tissue and dropped it onto the table, the waiter was quick to dispose it off.
As soon as we asked for the check, they wrapped up the left over. I have never seen such swiftness in service. The only dampener was that they didn’t accept cards. But I’m sure once they pick up business, card payment will come into effect..
The boy and the girl warmly greeted us again, hoping that we enjoyed our meal. A broad smile on our faces spoke more than 1000 words. I thanked the staff, assuring them I’ll be coming soon again.
While there’s plenty dishes still to savor, but I highly recommend you’ll to visit this place to enjoy their warm hospitality. And importantly, it is not at all expensive.