Photos by Trixie Reyna
Whenever anyone asks me to recommend a good restaurant in Makati, or sometimes even in the Metro, the first thing that usually comes out of my mouth is Pink Panda.
The “Southeast Asian Diner” owned by Erwan Heussaff serves a fusion of Filipino, Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Malaysian cuisine, with a little bit of Chinese and Japanese thrown in. I’ve tried at least 10 of the dishes in their original menu on various occasions and liked all of them, so if that’s not consistency, then I don’t know what is. If you love any or all or even a mix of these cuisines, then you’ll understand why this place is a must-try.
The other thing that draws me to this restaurant located at the ground floor of Y2 Hotel behind A. Venue in Makati is their good selection of cocktails. Good food and drinks and its laid-back, eclectic vibe make Pink Panda a perfect hang out for people like me who just want a place to kick back and have great conversations while pigging out and getting buzzed, any day of the week we please.
The team behind Pink Panda tries to overhaul its menu every year, so I was happy to be invited to try the new dishes. I also wanted to check if my old favorites are still there (specifically the Mango and Catfish Salad and Crispy Beef Rendang), and I was relieved to find they are. However, my favorite cocktail, Momo’s Delight, is currently out of the menu; here’s to hoping they bring it back, please!
I’ve been inviting different groups of friends to go there, and we order those two, among other dishes, all the time, so in my most recent visit, I made sure to stick to the new items on the menu. Read on for four new dishes and two new drinks you should try on your next (or even first) visit to Pink Panda Southeast Asian Diner soon:
1. Shredded Coconut Chicken Salad, P320
I may not be the poster girl for vegetable love, but I do love a good salad, and since one of my favorite Pink Panda dishes is actually a salad, I thought I should give this new one a try. It did not disappoint. The presentation is pretty—something Pink Panda has a knack for—but what really impressed me is the good mix of ingredients. The dish consists of spring onion, roasted pumpkin, green beans, chopped peanuts, coriander, wanton flakes, chicken bits cooled in coconut milk and lemon grass, drizzled with sesame oil and Thai fish sauce.
It has a nice fresh flavor with an interesting texture from the wanton flakes (that I mistook for chicken because it was somewhat dense at first glance and at first bite is rich in flavor). It’s the Thai fish sauce that paired really well with the chicken. The interplay of intense flavors and textures from the mix of ingredients makes this a party in your mouth. It’s like a Bicol Express of sorts, with a Thai flavor—it’s salty and spicy, sweet and sour, rich and creamy, all in one bite. And we’re just at the salad, folks.
2. Tempura Shrimp Har Kaw, P320
I always order ebi tempura whenever I eat in a Japanese restaurant, so I just had to try Pink Panda’s version. The first two things I noticed are the different round shape, dumpling style of their shrimp tempura (versus the long ebi version I’m used to) and the generous pile of nori strips on top (I love nori!). I must say the nori gave the dish a satisfying saltiness.
The batter is also like your typical tempura, but it’s more savory and has a different texture—they used potato starch instead of flour, so it’s lighter but filling and not overwhelming. It’s also not oily. Instead of whole shrimp, the batter covers generous bits of shrimp. I think the secret is the addition of Togarashi powder, or the Japanese seven-spice mix, which made it more delicious. It’s served with warm, slightly sweet radish soy dipping sauce that I liked.
3. Sisig Siopao, P250
Pink Panda has a thing for unique siopao, that even if I’m not really a siopao lover, I just can’t help but try their version. Their old menu had a siopao shaped like a panda that was almost too cute to eat (too bad it’s no longer offered). This new version’s twist is, instead of your traditional asado or bola-bola, it’s stuffed with crispy pork mask topped with egg. It’s served with caramelized soy onions and atchuete aioli, instead of the usual siopao sauce.
As you can see, there’s more to this siopao than meets the eye—look at all that sisig stuffed inside!
The HUGE bun itself is soft and sweet, while the sisig is sinfully tasty, although it can be crispier—it really depends on how you want your sisig. I asked the chef if we can request a crispier version, and she said they really might come up with a crispy sisig version—watch for it! I liked pairing it with the atchuete aioli, since it gives that sisig with mayo flavor you sometimes get from your favorite sisig joint. Pairing it with the onion chutney, meanwhile, gave it an interesting sweet flavor. This can definitely be a meal on its own.
4. Mixed Seafood Sambal, P550
While the Crispy Beef Rendang remains my top favorite Pink Panda dish, this entree is a close second. You get shrimp, squid, clams, mussels, little bits of fish—the seafood somehow changes everyday, depending on the fresh catch available—in a creamy sauce with curried tomato and chickpea, and served with a side of fried prawn toasties and chili sauce. I couldn’t help but exclaim “Wow!” when it was brought to the table because of the sheer size of the bowl and the amount of food in it.
I like the richness, slight sweetness, creaminess, and heat of the sambal. The dish has a medium spice level that builds the more you enjoy it, and which you can intensify by adding a bit of chili sauce with each bite. The prawn toasties also have a mild spice to them (although that’s also because they’re served in the bowl of sambal), although their slight sweetness can help distract you from the heat of the main dish—but feel free to enjoy the thick and delicious toasties with chili sauce for more interesting flavor and added heat. This dish is pretty filling!
Warning: If you’re not big on heat, make sure you have a refreshing drink on hand when you dig into the spicy sambal.
5. Flavored Iced Tea (available in Blackberry, Pomegranate, or Raspberry, P90)
I enjoyed the four dishes with a glass of Pomegranate Iced Tea, one of the non-alcoholic options you can get at Pink Panda. It’s definitely something new to me—we don’t find that many restaurants serving Pomegranate Iced Tea around here, do we? I like that it’s sweet and refreshing, with rich fruity-floral notes. And, it effectively tempers the heat from the sambal and the salad.
6. Pink Paradise, P240
Of course I also had to try one of their new cocktails, and I went with this fruity concoction made of vodka, apricot brandy, fresh orange juice, pomegranate syrup, and vanilla extract. It’s very sweet but strong, making it another great way to combat the heat from the spicy dishes. A great cocktail for the ladies, it’s smooth and almost traydor because it’s like juice, except that I can really tell the good alcohol used in it.
Note for rockeoke lovers: Pink Panda has Open Mic every Thursday night. A live band plays for the first 30 minutes, and then everyone is invited to sing and jam with them. There have been celeb sightings onstage, too—Matteo Guidicelli singing, anyone?
The Pink Panda Southeast Asian Diner is open daily from 11AM to 3AM and can be found on the ground floor of Y2 Hotel, 4687 Santiago Street corner B. Valdez and Singian Streets (behind A.Venue Mall) in Makati. For reservations and inquiries, call (0917) 839-0714 or e-mail email@example.com. To book your stay at Y2 Hotel via Agoda, click here.