Fat Panda

February 26, 2016

Fat Panda has been around for a long time, and my first visit was many moons ago at their mini sushi train. I remember it being pretty average and was merely a convenient place for quick Japanese food. Considering the abundance of Vietnamese restaurants in Canley Heights I don't intend to have Japanese food when I'm there so I essentially forgot about Fat Panda. However, I did pay them a visit recently with some good friends and discovered that the restaurant had been revamped dramatically.

Takoyaki (5 pieces) $5.00
Reasonably priced octopus balls but they were obviously pre-made frozen ones heated prior to serving due to the not so gooey insides. I wasn't particularly fussed though as they were smothered with yummy takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise but in saying that they could have done with a more heavy dusting of katsuoboshi (bonito flakes). Green laver wasn't used either which detracted from the authenticity. 

Spicy rock and roll $20.00
So glad we ordered the roll as I was actually quite impressed with the presentation when it arrived. We were afraid it would be too spicy but thankfully it wasn't. Only a hint of heat resonated on the tongue which really served to elevate the bold flavours. Sushi rice and seaweed was wrapped securely around crispy golden fried ebi (prawn) and fresh spicy raw tuna. Couple that with some smashed avocado on top and roe for extra texture and pop of colour and everything was an amazing combination as it was spicy, salty and creamy all at once. The only concern was the price as $20 for a roll was excessive especially for a restaurant in Canley Heights as the suburb doesn't exactly scream upperclass. I suppose Fat Panda gets away with it seeing that Japanese is pretty niche in the area. 

Agedashi tofu $7.00
A dish that we felt was lacking especially since the main attraction was the tofu. The firm tofu was not silken in texture at all and instead honestly quite lumpy and not creamy which was an indicator that it was overcooked. Additionally, the exterior should have been slightly crispy but it was really soggy perhaps because we allowed the tofu to settle in the soy broth for too long. My favourite agedashi tofu has so far been from Ippudo and Fat Panda's was disappointing in comparison save for the soy broth but even that didn't stop it from being bland.

Tempura vegetables $9.00
We received an appreciable mix of tempura cucumber, sweet potato and eggplant slices. I couldn't help but keep returning for more as the batter was really delicious and crispy while the vegetables housed inside were soft and piping hot. It's always so satisfying to hear that awaited crunch as one bites into tempura. The sweet potato would definitely be my favourite to munch on due to the contrasting sweetness of the potato with the slight saltiness from the tempura batter. A bit on the oilier side compared to other tempura I have tried from other restaurants but still really decent nonetheless especially for a Japanese place in Canley Heights.

Karaage chicken $12
Unfortunately Fat Panda's karaage chicken fell short as the batter wasn't crunchy enough and rather required some effort to bite through because it was tough in some areas. It didn't help that the soy marinated chicken pieces were not very succulent either. From what I've experienced karaage chicken is meant to be really juicy inside. I had to cover the fried chicken with plenty of the mayo provided to mask its dryness. 

BBQ beef ribs $17.50
The ribs were uniquely presented to us in a cute little pan whereas I had definitely pictured a rack of ribs when we ordered it. Not a negative thing in the least as it meant we were saved from creating a sticky mess trying to separate the ribs. The marinade was absolutely delicious, sweet and sticky, and as BBQ-ey as BBQ-flavoured sauce can get. I'm not usually a BBQ sauce kind of person but they were surprisingly good and the beef was fall off the bone tender which got two thumbs up from me. What was also really good was the side of sweet potato chips, crunchy outside and pillowy soft inside, what more could you ask for?

Fat Panda is a far from being a bad option for when you're in the mood for something a bit more adventurous and have tired of Thai or Vietnamese when you're in Canley Heights. The food was mostly average but with some standouts like the spicy tuna and ebi roll and BBQ beef ribs. Their vegetable tempura wouldn't be a bad choice either. A little on the expensive side though when you're familiar with the surrounding Vietnamese restaurants selling really filling and tasty dishes for around $10 to $15.

Fat Panda Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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