Tucked in the Town Square courtyard precinct of South.Point Shopping Centre in Tuggeranong is the unassuming looking Phat Panda.
With bright red accent walls and a panda logo emblazoned on the glass doors, the eatery has a lot to offer beyond their displays of Asian food favourites in the bain-marie.
One conversation with owner Luke Leung and you quickly realise there is more than what meets the eye to Phat Panda. It is not just your average suburban fast food shopping mall outlet. It is the culmination of a dream and passion to serve delicious Asian fusion food with a fun twist.
“For my family, food is everything. For generations food has brought us together, being the centre of every family gathering. I was born in Sydney to Hong Kong parents and the third generation to own an Asian restaurant. Being an Australian born Chinese, I grew up eating traditional Asian food. It wasn’t until I went to school that I started trying different cuisines. In my early teens, I started experimenting mixing western foods with Asian flavours. It was then that I dreamt of owning my own place where I could share the delicious flavours I had discovered.” shared Luke.
Whilst working in IT across the road from South.Point, Luke noticed that a prime spot was up for lease and decided to take the leap and open his own restaurant in June 2018. And he knew just what to name it.
“Phat Panda is where East meets West. PHAT is a modern slang acronym for ‘Pretty Hot and Tempting’ and also means ‘Luck’ in Chinese and Vietnamese language. PANDA simply comes from my Chinese background. Pandas are a national treasure to China and are of course loved by everyone.” said Luke.
As for the food, Luke went about crafting an urban Asian Fusion menu. The type of food that is playful and fun, just like we have become accustomed to eating at festivals and markets.
“The menu is based around fun eating for everybody, regardless of the season. Ranging from comfort food such as Noodle Soups, Pho and Laksa made from homemade stock cooked for 10 hours using natural herbs and spices, to our fresh made Baos and warm noodle salads which are Thai inspired.
“One of our most popular items on the menu is our Panda Rolls, which are Vietnamese-inspired rolls with different fillings. Plus our famous Puff Waffles with gelato or if you’re feeling adventurous you can have them savoury and add our BBQ pork, Fried Chicken, Tofu or Special Marinated Beef toppings,” said Luke.
For our first visit, we tried a dish from the Naughty Paws range. Think nachos, but instead of corn chips, Phat Panda use crispy golden brown fried wontons as a base. We topped ours with Marinated Beef with sweet Chilli, Tangy Mayo & Shallots. The result was a balanced combination of the sweetness of the beef coupled with the tanginess of the mayo and crunch of the wonton chips.
It left us hungry for more of Luke’s fusion creations so we followed it up with one of the Phat Bowls, which comes with Japanese rice, pickled carrots, lettuce and purple cabbage as a base. Ours contained Karaage Chicken, a traditional Japanese fried chicken but it was paired with more Chinese flavours of a BBQ Hoisin sauce and Sriracha mayo. Again, it was a perfect blend of playful flavours and a testimonial to Luke’s vision to provide great food in the suburbs.
“Growing up in Tuggeranong and seeing the South Point precinct develop over the years, I saw Phat Panda as a great opportunity to give back to the Tuggeranong community by providing awesome food. What I enjoy most about being part of the South.Point community is providing an exciting and enjoyable place to eat all year round.
My passion is being able to share my experiences of Asian Fusion and seeing my customers leave full and satisfied. I love bringing happiness to people through food.”
Phat Panda is located at Shop 175A/210 Anketell Street, Greenway. Open 10:30 am – 6 pm Monday – Thursday, 10:30 am – 8 pm Fridays, and 11 am – 4 pm Saturday and Sunday.
Original Article published by Sophia Brady on The RiotACT.