Each dish is made hot and ready, and the interior may be quaint and overrun by greenery, but Panda Garden is a homey and authentic place for Korean and Chinese cuisine.
Located on North 48th Street, Panda Garden is the only fast food Korean establishment in Lincoln. It serves orders within 10 minutes and also offers carry out. I personally have had many different kinds of Asian food, as I am adopted from China and have been raised on Asian cuisine my entire life.
Panda Garden is run by a Korean husband-wife team who prepare the food fresh for the customers.The dish I had for my lunch at Panda Garden is a staple in Korea: Bibimbap, which also happens to be on their Monday through Friday specials menu.
Bibimbap is a mixed vegetable and meat dish, usually served with a fried egg on the top and rice to mix it all together. The meal took approximately 10 minutes to prepare, and the presentation had each of the separate components in its own spot in the bowl. The meal was also served with creamy egg drop soup which is made with chicken broth and beaten eggs.
Overall, the Bibimbap was well-prepared and the colors of the ingredients gave it a pleasing visual aesthetic. While traditional Bibimbap is served with kimchi (fermented cabbage) on the top, I did not put that on. Since I have not acquired a taste for kimchi, I opted for a dash of soy sauce and Sriracha.
Without the seasoning, Bibimbap is somewhat bland, as there is no additional seasoning besides the oil and water. However, even as plain as I had it, the vegetables were cooked well, and they were not too crunchy or soggy. The rice was also soft and sticky, and it was not hard like other fast food steamed rice I have had, like at Panda Express.
A downside to Panda Garden is the lack of explanation of the dishes on its menu. While it provides pictures to accompany the names, there is no description for the menu items, meaning the customers will need to have a grasp on traditional Asian cuisine to know what to order.
Another slight inconvenience is the self-service set-up the customers must go through. After ordering, the customers get their own silverware, drink and put their dishes in a designated spot. Also, the toppings that go on for many of the dishes (such as kimchi) are stuck in a small corner next to the counter. The owners of the restaurant gives no explanation on how to do this, and the staff expects customers to have prior knowledge of the restaurant’s operation before going there.
Panda Garden has quick service and authentic taste. Because its focus remains on the quality of food, the restaurant's customer service is flawed. Although it lacks in ambience and service, it is definitely a restaurant for those looking for the taste of traditional Korean recipes without any fancy variances.