Sleepy Panda, Wrexham; TASTE TEST.
Normally our son isn't that keen to be seen out with his cool parents but the mere mention of Cantonese food grabs his attention and he joins us. It's the same inside with many families and parties of people socially gathering together as the draw of a prawn cracker or two appears to be a big draw.
The Sleepy Panda is open every evening from 5.30pm to midnight and this includes the lucrative takeaway market, however there is a separate area for this with comfortable leather chairs so diners don't get disturbed.
The decor is suitably oriental with its bamboo style chairs and striking lucky red design around the tables. Some of the artwork looks a bit dated however that only adds to the charm of such settings.
There is a circular lazy Susan in the middle of our table that starts you drooling in anticipation, even before the food arrives. The choice is expansive, as many Chinese restaurant menus are, with a number of set banquets, special seafood dishes that are almost impossible to choose from due to the array of delicious options.
We kind of give up and choose a set menu that includes a various mixed appetisers, crispy duck with pancakes and a main course choice that we decide to share communal style. There is a spacious bar with a number of beers and wines on offer but also a huge variety of coffees as well. I choose my usual Wrexham lager with my wife and son sharing a decanter of mineral water.
The dips and mixed appetisers excitingly start to appear one by one with crispy seaweed that we take turns in sweeping up and munching. We dip the dim sum pasta covered pork classics in chilli sauce and eat the skewered satay chicken with a peanut style dipping sauce.
Who can resist a sesame prawn toast or two? Well not me, and the spring rolls are suitably fragrant, fresh and crunchy. My son eats his hot crispy vegetable triangles like a panda in suitably lazy fashion but says they are lip-smacking tasty in a rare show of enthusiasm.
Next to arrive is the crispy duck with spring onions, cucumber and pancakes. I can't describe how much I enjoyed this dish. Our waitress tears it up for us taking out the bone as I looked on in eagerness. There is some sort of childish excitement of grabbing a pancake, stuffing it with duck, adding a pinch of cucumber or spring onion and finishing it with a spoonful of hoisin sauce.
Getting serious, the crispy duck is perfectly cooked, soft, tasty and moist with the outer layers crispy enough. The whole thing is full of flavour; the onions, cucumber and hoisin sauce just compliment the duck with freshness and a touch of sweetness.
It was time for the mains and I start with a real head turner in crispy chicken with sweet chilli sauce in a bird's nest. The edible nest holding the chicken is made entirely out of baked noodles and holds the crispy chicken and sauce in a secure basket.
It looks fantastic and tastes just as good with just about enough sticky gloop to help with the crispy texture. We may have many napkins and hot wipes but I still make a mess, with the white cloth suitably stained with even a bit of bird's nest on my jumper as well.
My wife goes for fillet of pork with black bean sauce.
Black bean sauce is made from fermented soya beans and it brings a delicious saltiness to Chinese dishes. The pork is lean and tender and goes well with the Yung chow fried rice that went with it.
The fried rice, a specialty from eastern China is distinct and individual grains of rice are cooked in the egg, soy and oyster sauce. There were prawns, pork and egg in there as well that all worked together to soak up the bean sauce just nicely.
My son ordered a vegetable aubergine dish with hot broad bean sauce that arrived with boiled rice. The eggplant was dark purple in colour with dark soy sauce, red chillies; crushed Sichuan peppers to add spice.
We were all stuffed full at this point so decline dessert and coffee. We are given fortune cookies as I go to pay the bill, with my wife getting a prediction that she will meet a tall handsome stranger.
I look into her eyes and ask; how the dickens did they know that? I do however have the good fortune to report that the good folk of Wrexham are lucky to have this distinctive building on their doorstep. Prawn Cracker anyone? MARK WILLIAMS THE FACTS The Bill Set menu: PS19.50 x 3 Wrexham Lager Decanter Mineral Water Total: PS63.20 The Facts Atmosphere: Contented family ambience Car parking: Own car park outside Disabled access: Single story and located on the ground floor Service: Well-organized and friendly Overall: Local landmark serving Cantonese cuisine Opening Times: 5.30pm-midnight.