Featuring Daughter Sydney.
It appears I have found my niche within the eatSCV Foodie roster. I’m the family guy… your host for all restaurant and food stuffs, family related.
Want to know if a restaurant if family friendly? How about a kid’s eye view of your favorites? All that and more will be explored by my family, for yours. If either my wife or daughter take part in a tasting that leads to a review they will – in their own words – tell you their thoughts.
Having said that, here is our view of one of the many Chinese restaurants in the SCV. We decided to
take on the Saugus Grand Panda, located at the corner of Seco and Copper Hill.
Now to be clear, I am – in the words of my wife…and anyone else who has ever known me – a Chinese food snob. I was born to a Jewish family in New England with relatives in Queens, and spent more time in China Town then most of my friends did in McDonalds. Your cheeseburger (or my kid’s McNuggets) was my egg roll. Christmas (following a day at the slopes and preceding a movie) and most Sundays were spent at our local Chinese restaurant and my first real job was at the Peking Chef (in Wilkes-Barre, PA) as a busboy, where I learned about Chinese Chinese food, sitting at the staff dinner table after closing.
Yes, that was simply to provide my resume as a critic in this very personal category of restaurants. Personal in that, you like what you like and I like what I like and, because we all grew up differently, what I like isn’t necessarily what you like. Me, I like the subtle flavors of Cantonese style (found mostly in Dim Sum and other Americanized dishes) with just a touch of Szechuan (bolder, spicier flavors). And I am very much attached to the east coast style of Chinese, which differs in many ways from west coast style.
Of all of the Chinese restaurants we have in the SCV, Grand Panda seems the most like an east coast
dining experience. The flavor profile seems to be a good alternative and is genuinely good for the whole family, providing a nice variety of traditional favorites and hidden pleasures.
Sydney and I went for lunch recently and enjoyed the inexpensive lunch special menu, getting out for around $25 with a soda for her and an appetizer to share.
I had the egg flower soup, but was very disappointed that Won Ton soup is not offered with the lunch special. There is very little preparation or cost difference and Won Ton is a very traditional starter. (Folks, this is where I start pointing out the difference between east coast and west coast…here, Won Ton – with veggies, chicken and shrimp – is the more popular version, while on the east coast, Won Ton soup, consisting of a hearty broth, won tons, sliced bbq pork and scallions is the much more traditional choice.)
We then shared a serving of steamed dumplings. These are Syd’s favorite, so I will allow her to describe her impression, but I like them. Made from pork and a wrapper that is just the right thickness, the dumplings make a nice bridge to the lunch special plate.
The main was a large serving of Shrimp with Lobster Sauce, veggie fried rice, a chicken spring roll, a salad and an orange. The serving is a hearty portion that will definitely fill you up. I like their Shrimp with Lobster Sauce, as it is packed with plenty of shrimp and is never overpowering in its use of garlic. I will say, they never give you enough sauce. And I like extra sauce. The rest of the plate is fine, nothing outstanding, nothing terrible.
As for Sydney, she had the Beef with Broccoli lunch special (with the same included sides), a Won Ton Soup and some of the dumplings. In her words: “The soup was only OK. The won tons are good but the broth was very bland. In the Beef with Broccoli, the beef was pretty chewy but the sauce and broccoli was really good. I love their dumplings and the dipping sauce is really good. The pork in the dumplings is very tasty and when dipped in the sauce, it is the best thing on the menu.”
We have had large take out and dine in meals from Grand Panda and have never been too disappointed. It is steady and good. And, in my opinion, the best Chinese restaurant in town. There are others that can be very good (New Moon, Moon Wok, Wokcano and China Wok, to name a few) but they all miss the boat on one thing or another, fairly consistently.
But again, it is all really a matter of taste. And if it tastes good, eat it!