Monday, 5 February 2018

Aberdeen Restaurant Week - Pan Asia (Aberdeen)

Although I've never been to Asia, the variety of food it has to offer is unbelievable. From Thai, to Indian, to Chinese and Japanese, all of these cuisines tie in quiet nicely together whilst standing out individually. It's the use of sweet and sour, partnered with chilli and spice which makes these cuisines so different from one another. From broths to dim sum, to spicy curries and sweet and sticky dishes, there's something to suit all tastes.

Pan Asia is a newer restaurant to the Aberdeen scene, and at not even a year old, they have been paving the way for Asian cuisine within the city centre. Involved in Aberdeen Restaurant Week, I decided to pay the Asian inspired restaurant a visit to put their Thai and Indian chefs to the test.

Greeted by Ruchi, the restaurant owner herself, she welcomed us with open arms and showed us to our table. A fashionable woman, I could tell she was excited about the buzz of Aberdeen Restaurant Week and was extremely proud to be involved and get yet another chance to show her restaurant's offering.

She talked my best friend and I through the menu, and gave her stand-out recommendations. Now, I'm not going to lie, when she suggested we try out cauliflower for our starter I undoubtedly turned my nose up. Having being force fed the stuff as a child, it was one vegetable I did not have a good relationship. Trusting her judgements, we ended up ordering it - although I was still a little sceptical even after her reassurance.

The restaurant is stunning. Beautiful brick and wood detailing surrounds you, and the simplistic touches of flowers on the is more than enough for the grand restaurant.

Going on a trip around Asia, we started off with Thai and Chinese...

Lauren opted for the Gobi Manchurian - battered cauliflower cooked with garlic, onions and ginger which were then sautéed in a sweet, tangy Chinese sauce. The cauliflower was like butter in your mouth. It melted immediately and also boasted a lovely crispness to it having been battered. The cauliflower was cooked in a way I'd never experienced it before, and I couldn't quite believe it was cauliflower to be honest. It was sublime. The sauce which it had been cooked in was lovely and rich, and had a gorgeous stickiness to it - similar to the Chinese ribs I'd had previously. This was one dish I had serious food envy over.
I decided to go with Ruchi's second recommendation which was the wok fried sliced pork.  It was massive. The dish itself could have basically been a main, but what I loved about it most was the abundance of pork and vegetables it boasted. The pork belly was incredible, and was cooked in a stir fry sauce which had mixed Thai spices throughout. It was like a sweeter rendition of soy sauce, with a slight fiery kick to it.

The pork was beautifully cooked and still boasted some of the fat on it, which definitely added to the flavours when it had been cooked. The vegetables were cooked well, with the broccoli, green beans and carrot providing a lovely crunch to the dish. It never seemed to end, and I had to recruit Lauren to assist me in polishing it off. It was too good not to finish.Moving on to mains, my eyes turned to the Northern West Indian region of Punjab. Ordering the Punjabi butter masala chicken curry. A mild curry in a creamy tomato and onion sauce, it was pungent on the nose and buttery on the palette. The chicken was super succulent and cooked perfectly. There was lots of it too, which I was pleased to see, and I really struggled to finish the curry alone, never mind the extras we had ordered.
All of the dishes are made from scratch every day, and all of the sauces are also homemade, created by the chefs who have put their own spin on some classics. Ruchi also informed me that all of the meat and vegetables are locally sourced which I really enjoyed hearing.

I also ordered a side of garlic naan which was extremely soft on the inside and slightly crispy on the inside. Ruchi told me this was as a result of the types of ovens they used to create them. Lauren and I tucked into it, as well as the side of sticky coconut rice we'd ordered as an extra too.

My curry also came with a small side salad, but I was more focused on the curry itself than anything else.

Lauren decided she was after something Thai and chose the chicken Pad Thai. A lover of Thai food - this really did not surprise me. The Pad Thai smelled outstanding. Created with rice noodles, this famous dish from Thailand was mixed with sweet and sour tamarind sauce and boasted a variety of stir fry vegetables throughout. 

The chicken was gorgeous, and was extremely well cooked - just like my butter masala. Again, there was lots of it and the rice noodles were easy to scoop up. She squeezed a few drops of fresh lemon juice over the dish which added a nice citrus element to it.

Many of Pan Asia's dishes can be created to provide a huge range of vegetarian dishes and the restaurant also caters well for all dietary requirements too, creating unique dishes for customers to enjoy.
We were pretty full following our main and starter due to the size of them, but as we both boast an incredibly sweet tooth, we decided we'd just have to order a dessert.

Lauren chose the chocolate bounty with vanilla ice cream and I decided to go for the Gulab Jamun with vanilla ice cream. I'm not going to lie, I was super jealous of her choice. I adore chocolate desserts, but thought it was best to order something I'd not ever really tried before.

The chocolate bounty was a big chocolate cake with a coconut hint. It came topped with a rich, dark chocolate sauce which smothered the cake, and then a dollop of ice cream on top of that. To Lauren's surprise the dish came served cold, which, if there was one thing she would change about it, would have been for it to be served warm. Other than this small oversight, she absolutely loved it.

My dessert was unlike anything I'd had before. Ruchi and our server informed me that it was a dumpling made of what I can only describe is similar to pancake mixture, deep fried and then soaked in sugar syrup. They had advised that it was incredibly sweet, and my god they were right. The dumplings were obviously warm, melting the ice cream as I tucked into it. The dish was extremely sweet and as much as I enjoyed it, I could only tackle one dumpling and a little ice cream due to the richness of the sweet dish.

Our time at Pan Asia was coming to an end, but not before we sat down with Ruchi who told us all about her restaurant and the food they specialised in.

We chatted about work and life, and I have to admit, she truly made the experience. The food and surroundings were excellent, and I couldn't fault it. But what I love most about visiting restaurants is getting the chance to meet the owner or chefs behind the business and finding out about what drives them, their passions and how they have managed to create such unique places which almost seem effortless to the customer. And it's safe to say Ruchi without a doubt makes this place.

On Saturday's they also provide entertainment in the form of musical acts, be that singers or musicians. I loved the atmosphere this created in the restaurant and there were even some people dancing and singing along to the music whilst we were there. There's nothing better than seeing people really enjoy themselves whilst delving into fist-class flavoursome food.

Located on Bridge Street, it's well hidden. Just a short walk from Union Street, it's well worth venturing to, and with a wide variety of Asian dishes, it's a great way to enjoy a variety of cuisines all under one roof. Not to mention it's great value for money - especially if you're trying it out throughout Aberdeen Restaurant Week.

With a three-course dinner for £20.18, you're off to a winner. This fusion of flavours and cuisines is quite simply one of the best in Aberdeen. And if you haven't already tried it out, be sure to visit as it is outstanding.

  For Now...

Just Julia


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