Thursday, May 3, 2012

Panda Express

(Comcast Center Market)
1701 John F Kennedy Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 567-1639

When I was in college, Panda Express was eaten at least once a week. It was a giant plate of food that was relatively fresh, and definitely cheap. I still have very fond memories of the place, and when I realized there was one in our fair city, I knew I had to have it. I actually went for lunch on the day I found out. It's in the basement food court of the Comcast Center, where it has to compete with places such as Percy St. BBQ and Di Bruno Brothers – not an easy task.

How are those people so mesmerized by the chafing station in BOTH pictures? So anyway, the concept is that you order a plate and they give you two to three entrees, as well as fried rice or chow mein, or both. You go down the line picking what looks good, which is actually kind of tough, because most of it looks pretty good.

So $14 later, I had two, two-entree orders. There was an added surcharge because I got shrimp, which I guess is a "premium" topping.

The chili sauce is a can't-miss condiment. Mostly because the rice and noodles need some help in the flavor department.

Behind door number one was the walnut shrimp, Shanghai Angus steak, and a mix of the rice and chow mein.

The new honey walnut shrimp consists of tempura battered, fried shrimp in a honey sauce. The walnuts were not really there, but the shrimp were pretty tasty. They were slightly sweet, slightly crispy, and not bad at all.

The steak was also good, but seriously, why did they only include the most fibrous parts of the asparagus stems? It's supposed to be the other way around. Anyway, the beef was decent, served with "Asian steak sauce(?)" and was tender enough to make me not hate it.

The next pile up was the Beijing beef, orange chicken, and another mix of the two fillers. Don't get me wrong, they are both acceptable, just not very flavorful. At least they are not greasy.

The orange chicken is the "signature dish" and the one I am most accustomed to. It's good. At least the sweet and spicy orange sauce is a welcome change from the traditional brown sauce most cheap Chinese places serve. The crispy(ish) chicken is coated in the sweet sauce, and is pretty damn good.


The Beijing beef is comprised of crispy strips of marinated beef, red bell pepper, and onion in a "tangy sweet and spicy" sauce. This may be my favorite one out of all of them. The beef is crispy and tender, and the sauce has a little kick to it. I am a big fan.

So here's the deal, this is not the best Chinese food in city, by any stretch of the imagination. It's barely Chinese food. However, it is pretty good Americanized fast food Chinese. It's better than 90% of the Chinese places in the city (Chinatown excluded), because they all serve exactly the same greasy, underwhelming, salt laden, and flavorless menu. It is a cheap, filling fix, if you happen to be in the area, and want to get something that won't make you need a nap afterward.