3735 Summer Avenue
On Sunday we found ourselves driving down Summer Avenue looking for a place to get our Year of the Ox celebrations on. Per usual, we spent Sunday morning in bed listening to the Splendid Table on NPR. Lynn had a woman on who studied fortune cookies (they were invented by Japanese Americans), and it got us hankering for some Chinese food.
We decided on Panda Garden since we hadn't been there in awhile. (Technically we haven't ever been there since I'm pretty sure it was still Formosa on our last visit.) Once we walked in, I remembered why we probably stopped coming. It's a little fancier and more formal than your average Chinese restaurant. (i.e. There's no buffet.) Despite the quiet elegance of the place, there were several families in attendance this Sunday afternoon.
We sat at a table near the window and commenced quizzing the monkeys (Satchel, 6, and Jiro, 4) about what they wanted to eat. "I want nothing," said Jiro. He was still not 100%, and he'd been pigging out at my mom's all morning, so I didn't press him. "Do you want some egg soup?" I asked Satchel. He vigorously shook his head no. Usually egg soup is a big hit with them both so I was a bit stumped. "How about some chicken wings and white rice?" I tried. This received a small display of enthusiasm from Satchel so I went with it.
Meanwhile Warren decided he wanted to try a lunch special. For $5.25 (or $5.95) you could have a choice of entree, spring roll, Chinese man-tow, fried rice, and choice of soup. Not a bad deal. However, there was some debate about whether the lunch special would be in effect on a Sunday. The waitress confirmed that it was, so we both opted to get one. Warren chose Hunan chicken and I chose fragrant shrimp.
Our soup and spring rolls came out right away and were accompanied by a chicken wing. I'm not sure if this was standard or a New Year's bonus, but I happily ate it. The hot & sour soup was very good--definitely on par with my favorite, Saigon Le. The spring roll wasn't very exciting, but good enough. (It was almost exclusively filled with cabbage.)
Next the monkeys' chicken and rice came out. Jiro, still refusing to eat, got out of his chair and perched himself on the window sill at the end of the table next to me. He was sitting quietly so I let him stay. Satchel attacked his chicken wings with such a gusto that Jiro was eventually convinced to eat a couple himself. Warren and I got our entrees soon after and while I loved the fried rice and the Chinese man-tow (a.k.a. a beignet), my fragrant shrimp was swimming in a very thick sauce. Too thick. I picked out the six or so nice sized shrimp, but couldn't eat any of the drowning veggies. Had I not already been so full, I might have tried harder. Warren's entree had the same thick sauce, which he agreed wasn't the best, but he made a happy plate anyway. I spied a table next to us with about eight people and tried to discern a better dish to order next time.
As Warren soldiered through his meal, my left overs, and his pot of hot tea, the boys began getting a bit antsy. Using inside voices and sitting still became harder and harder for them to do. We had a small reprieve when our server brought the fortune cookies (and $20.54 check). Warren gave the monkeys a big speech on Chinese New Year and told them that their fortunes would be very telling for the new year.
Jiro: Tomorrow will be a productive day. Don't oversleep. (He did .)
Satchel: A chance meeting with a stranger will possibly change your life. (Hmmm...)
Warren: Your hard work is about to pay off. (Yay!)
Stacey: Life is a series of choices. Today yours are good ones. (Just today?)
We ended our meal with a discussion on the origins and manufacturing process of chopsticks, thanks to the fine print on the wrapper. (They are made from bamboo and became a substitute for knives during the Shang Dynasty. According to Confucious, knives were equated with acts of aggression and should not be used to dine.) Then we had the customary doling out of quarters for the gumball machine, and hit the road. Should we ever pass Panda Garden again whilst hungry, I'm sure we'll stop in again.
Jiro and I did make one bathroom run. It was clean, but small. It would definitely pose a challenge to anyone needing to change a diaper.