Fusion delight

MY wife gave me a strange look as I parked outside “Play and Pleasure” on Bulwer Street in Perth.

Glancing at the purple panties in the window, I quickly confirmed we were going for lunch at Panda & Co a few doors down and not buying some toys for the weekend.

After weeks of biblical rain, the sun was finally out and it was a glorious crisp winter’s day as we walked past the stylish alfresco at Panda & Co and ventured inside.

We were greeted by a smiley lady at the till, who gave us menus and told us to take a seat in the small cafe, which specialises in Asian fusion brunch dishes and mains.

So nice to get a warm welcome, as some cafe staff are like extras from The Walking Dead and barely look up from the coffee machine to acknowledge your existence.

The menu was unashamedly fusion – in fact they joke about being “proudly inauthentic” on their website – with a small range of bao, rice dishes, burgers, noodles and some miscellaneous dishes like pork broth congee, Reubens rolly mollies, and Marty’s keto bowl.

I love the decor in Panda & Co – it’s like like a cross between Chinatown and a Pokemon cartoon with lanterns rubbing shoulders with panda soft toys and cushions, and straws designed like stalks of bamboo.

It created a kitsch vibe and a nice atmosphere even when the place was half full on a Monday lunchtime, so hats off for successfully establishing a theme that didn’t feel cheesy or ham-fisted. After ordering at the till, the waitress was quickly back with my wife’s Grandpa’s 12 hour pork belly bao ($9).

“There’s a big old slab of pork belly in there and it just melts in your mouth,” she said.

“It’s got a lovely sticky sweet sauce with crunchy nuts, subtle onion, cucumber and plenty of coriander.  

“The bun is lovely and soft, and very filling.”

My wife washed her bao down with a Green Operator smoothie ($8.50).

“It’s not bitter and a nice mix of kale, spinach, avocado, banana and almond milk,” she said.

“This and the bao are plenty for lunch.”

I went for the more substantial beef rendang quesadilla ($24) which combined three cooking cultures into a gooey, delicious tower of food.

The light and deliciously flaky scallion pancakes were crammed with yummy slow-cooked brisket and layers of melted cheese.

A delicious combo that tasted even better when dipped in the little bowl of sour cream, scattered with spring onion.

It was a moreish and very filling dish, and I struggled to finish the cheesy skyscraper.

Perhaps there could have been a few more ingredients in the filling to maintain your interest throughout the dish, but that aside it was top notch.

I really enjoyed my lunch at Pando & Co  – the food was delicious and well presented, the staff friendly and the decor original.

What more could you ask for?

Panda & Co
87 Bulwer Street, Perth
pandaandco.com.au

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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