When was the last time that you bought into the hype of something and was left underwhelmed and disappointed. I’d love to say that I’m not a bandwagoner but my dusty Ello account, first-gen Zune player, Hoobastank extended cut album, Ed Hardy trucker hats and box of fidget spinners will say otherwise. My feed has been inundated with content from this place. Unfortunately I fell into the algorithm of overly ecstatic people pushing the “best” of this thing and the “you won’t believe” of that. I wanted to check out the spot for myself. So I went to Panda Doré and ordered the entire menu to see what this dumpling place was all about and if it really warranted social media bug-eyed gawking reactions.
Located in Chinatown, Panda Doré now occupies a newly renovated, freshly painted space that was once one of my favourite spots in Chinatown Sai Gwan. Now it’s what they’re claiming to be a “traditional Shanghainese” restaurant that serves a handful of dishes in the shadow of their cute panda branding.
Of the various traditional appetizers, they only had three available. The kim chi, radish kimchi and gluten salad. This salad was sliced mushrooms, lily flowers, thick pieces of wheat gluten marinated in a sweet and savoury soy dressing and tossed with peanuts. Peanuts and gluten. This salad should be called the “fuck all your allergies, all at once salad”. The gluten pieces were rubbery, but that’s its inherent nature – gluten, and was nice to whet your appetite.
Crispy Pork Mooncakes
You’ve seen similar things at dimsum – barbecue pork (cha siu) in a rectangular puff pastry. These “mooncakes” are almost the same, but different. The filling is more of a savoury pork paste that’s wrapped in a delicate flakey shell. As much as I love bbq pork and pastries and the unholy combination of both at the same time, I probably could have destroyed the entire order. But these were very dense and I struggled to get through one.
Beef Flank Curry Vermicelli Soup
This soup noodle was tasty if not a bit bland – even for curry.
The cellophane noodles soaked up a lot of the curry flavour from the soup, but the soup itself was mediocre. Nothing exciting. Literally tasted like chicken broth with curry powered sprinkled in à la Saltbae with half the product landing on the floor and everywhere other than the pot of soup. The beef was soft and tender and bland. Shame.
The wonton soup was nice and consisted of plump pork and shrimp dumplings swimming in a tepid broth that tasted like the curry soup without curry. Very generous portion.
The wontons with peanut butter was nice even though the sauce was runny and watery. Same wontons that was in the wonton soup that tasted like the curry noodle soup… I don’t know why she swallowed a fly.
Pan Fried Buns
What we actually came here for. The pan-friend buns. Pork filled buns wrapped in dough then pan-fried and steamed. This yields a fluffy chewy skin with a crisp underside that’s a mix of flavours and textures.
I love the fact that they’re about two to three bites per bun. Perfect snacks, but not feasible as an actual meal (for me at least). Then again, not everyone’s stomach is a endless void for dumplings and buns like mine. The pork filling was juicy and was soaked into the inside of the bun. Although there was soy sauce and chili oil on the table, the filling itself was missing seasoning. Could it have been because it was all soaked into the bun? Probably.
They’ve got the aunties sitting by the window flexing their dexterous fingers pleating dumplings by the dozens. My overall experience was mid. The food was not spectacular nor was the service. Maybe it’s the Chinatown charm. Some will not find it appealing, but I love it. Curt, direct and on the verge of rude that I attribute to a question of culture and things being lost in translation. Welcome to Chinatown.
So why the over exaggerated social media responses? It’s lost on me. Am I old? Am I a jaded food blogger that has literally eaten everything? Do I expect more? Did I go on an off day? I’m a fan and supporter of Chinatown and will help promote any business in the neighbourhood. The lineups for this place is proof that they’re on to something. Panda Doré is one of the very few places that serve pan-fried buns and this is great. Although it was a miss for me, I ask you; have you been here before? Did you enjoy it? Why? If you haven’t, I’d love for you to tell me how wrong I am in my assessment of the menu Let me know!
14 Rue de la Gauchetière E