Posted by: Sean Carter | November 9, 2011

#16: Panda Express

It was only a matter of time before I got around to this, I love me some Panda Express.  There used to be times when I would have it at least once a week.  I try to spread it out a bit more though so I don’t get tired of it.  This summer, when I discovered the Sunrise Marketplace was within driving distance for lunch from work, I found myself there 3 days in one week.  It was bad, but in a good way ;)

Panda Express Exterior

I went to the one by Walmart, over by the Auto Mall, which is usually the one I end up going to when I’m coming from or going home.  I don’t often do dine-in but I decided to sit outside to enjoy the glorious mid-60s weather.  They have a decent sized dining room which I’ve never seen full.  I think most people do take out as well.  They have a mix of normal high tables and bar high tables as well as a counter along the window.

Panda Express Dining Room

Just a short wait and I was up the counter being greeted and going through the Panda Express motions I’ve become accustomed to.  I was actually thrown off a bit when they forgot to ask me if I wanted a sample (pretty sure it’s policy, they ask about it in their survey).

Panda Express Counter

I tend to order the same thing, with slight variations based on what looks fresh and what is running low.  The Chow Mien vs Fried Rice decision is always based on which one is the most full.  The thing about these two is that if they’ve been sitting for more than 10 minutes they just really lose their appeal.  They aren’t piping hot anymore and are just okay.  If they look about the same and not fresh I go with the chow mien because I feel if holds up a bit better.  Today I couldn’t tell so I went half and half.

Panda Express Rice/Chow Mein

My entree choices are usually made with this priority in mind:

  1. Orange Chicken – Always ordered, even if it’s been sitting out for a while or I have to wait for more to be made.
  2. Honey Walnut Shrimp – These are incredible, I’ve never had a bad order of them.
  3. Kung Pao Chicken – This tends to be my third choice, but if I have to wait and I’m in a hurry I’ll go further down the list.
  4. Sweet & Sour Pork – Always a good choice.
  5. Mushroom Chicken – This used to be a staple for me but Honey Walnut Shrimp took that spot immediately when it was introduced.
  6. Beijing Beef – I like this a lot at first, it starts out strong.  Unfortunately I’m usually over it by the time I finish.
  7. Broccoli Beef – Haven’t actually ordered this in a very long time, but it was one of the things I ordered a lot back in the day.
This evening the orange chicken was about half full, so it was good, but not great like it is when it’s fresh.  It actually seems to have a different flavor when it’s fresh from the wok, and it’s fantastic.  The orange is fairly strong at that point, then drops off as the minutes tick by.
Panda Express Orange Chicken
Next up was the honey walnut shrimp (tempura shrimp in a honey sauce).  Also about half full, but still good, they must have been popular as they were still quite hot and fresh.  The glazed walnuts are amazing.
Panda Express Walnut Chicken
Finally I ordered the kung pao chicken since it was totally out and guaranteed to be fresh.  They will bring it out to you if it’s going to take more than a couple minutes.  In this case they handed it to me right before I got to the register.  Many times Chinese dishes (americanized or otherwise) have insane amounts of vegetables that feels like a bit of a rip off. The kung pao chicken has an awful lot of zucchini and some bell peppers, but I love them and tend to eat every last bit.  Watch out for a few chili peppers hidden in there, they’ll get you if you’re not paying attention!
Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken
Panda Express Food Overview
This was an average Panda Express visit.  I didn’t go during peak dinner time so I didn’t really expect the freshest food.  It still tastes great though ;)  One thing that I’ve noticed at every Panda Express I’ve been to is that their fountain soda is particularly weak.  I mention it to them in every survey I fill out.  Oh, that brings me to my last point.  Pro Tip: Always keep your receipt and do the quick survey online.  It’s worth a free entree next visit at any location.  I always have a receipt in my wallet with the code on it ready to go so I can get a three entree plate instead of two.
Panda Express Receipt
All that said, I’ll give this one a 3.5 out of 5.  I love Panda Express a lot, but they need to improve their soda strength and maybe prepare the fried rice/chow mien in smaller batches during non-peak hours so it doesn’t sit as long.
Oh, and since it’s both Panda Express and Roseville related , I’ll just leave this right here…
(The Public Access Show is made by Arjun Singh at the Roseville Community Access Station)
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Responses

  1. A chain, Sean? Let’s venture out beyond the known into the unknown. First Olive Garden, now Panda Express. Restore the blog!

  2. You may be missing the blog’s concept, Ally. I think Sean perhaps is trying every restaurant in one particular area-that includes chains and otherwise.

  3. I’m sorry to have made you basically explain the content of this entry to me in real-time speech, but I guess it would have been lame of you to say, “read the blog entry.”


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