It’s been a family tradition of ours that the birthday person shouts a meal for the rest of the family. I had already agreed to host dinner at my place for mum’s birthday, but rules are rules, and mum took us to Red Panda on her actual birthday. Mum was pretty excited about taking us here, she said that they’ve got a few special dishes which other Chinese restaurants don’t have. I personally don’t get too excited about trying new Chinese restaurants, but her energy rubbed off on me, and therefore I was eager to try these guys out.
Red Panda is located in a fairly quiet area in Wheelers Hill. I must have driven past this restaurant a million times and have not noticed them. I remembered the Salvation Army on this strip of shops, but that was it. A quick search on Google maps and I knew exactly where I needed to be. Red Panda felt and looked like a typical Chinese restaurant, they had a little takeaway counter which led into the main dining room. I sat down and my bum cheeks sunk into the chair! I found this a bit hilarious… these chairs have probably had their fair share of bottoms through the years! There’s also the fact that they’ve got carpet, I’ve never been a fan of carpets in restaurants. Apart from these 2 niggly things, the restaurant looked really clean and there was adequate spacing between the tables.
Mum had quietly whispered to me that their vegetables were a bit old and tough last time. I asked her which ones she ordered and suggested to order a Chinese broccoli this time. I also thought it was best we told them about her previous experience and confirm that their Chinese broccoli was fresh this time. There’s nothing worse than eating old Chinese broccoli as it gets stringy and tough. After being deprived of vegetables from our Japan trip, I was looking forward to some quality veggies back home!
We started off with 2 pigeons as entree, I was shocked to find out they were $28 each! I can’t remember the last time I had pigeon, so I cannot comment whether or not that was a reasonable price, but it felt expensive. It felt like an eternity before the other five dishes arrived, it was probably our fault because we asked for all the dishes to arrive together. I do not know the exact names of each dish because it was all in Chinese, but I can certainly tell you which ones were the best! My favourite dishes of the night were the fish balls with vermicelli, deep fried chicken spare ribs and the egg yolk coated eggplant. The fish balls had a bouncy texture and came with an awesome tasting soup. The chicken spare ribs were deep fried beautifully, crunchy texture and had a sweetness to it too. I enjoyed the egg yolk coated eggplant because it was just special and I had never had a dish like this before.
So remember the Chinese broccoli I was so looking forward to? Well they were old and tough! You know when you’re so deprived of something, then you think you’re gonna get it, and it turns out to be absolute sh*t? Well that’s the emotions I went through! My mood meter was sitting between annoyed and angry. To give you an idea how bad they were, we couldn’t even chew through a lot of the stems because they were so stringy. To put it bluntly, they need to fire their green vegetables supplier because they shouldn’t be serving this quality to their customers. The other dish that was disappointing was the enoki mushroom and tofu dish. It tasted quite ‘fishy’… I questioned mum what it could be, and she suspects that the dried scallops they used were probably not fresh. I’ve never had this experience before, but I’ll take her word for it.
Overall, the dishes here were a bit hit and miss. I noticed they really excel in a lot of the fried dishes, but I would never come here for greens. It’s not a place I would personally come back to, but if mum wanted to come here again then I would join her. Sometimes it’s not just the quality of the food, but also who you eat it with.
Approx $35 AUD per person
Address: 4/192 Brandon Park Dr, Wheelers Hills VIC 3150
Phone: +61 3 9561 3256