On Friday, January 27, 2012, I met a friend for lunch at the Panda Café at 2138 1/2 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, in Washington, DC. We found the food okay but the space and the atmosphere not conducive to conversing.
This particular Panda Café (part of a chain) occupies a narrow rectangular space in Washington, DC's Foggy Bottom neighborhood. The restaurant appears to prioritize carryout and delivery customers. Servers and others continually traversed the narrow space between the hostess stand in front and the kitchen in the rear, bringing forth carryout orders for customers waiting in the front of the space. Staff coordinated by calling out to one another from front to back of the restaurant. These distractions impeded our conversing over lunch.
Panda Café served us promptly. A waitress took our orders soon after we were seated. Our food was delivered to the table efficiently.
The food proved average for "mom and pop" Chinese. The two of us started by sharing an order of spring rolls and then separate lunch entrees. The spring rolls were quite undistinguished, both narrow and hard. One easily can imagine finding better quality in a supermarket's frozen food section. The entrées fared better. My sautéed eggplant came nicely seasoned--spicy but not too "hot," generously sized, and accompanied by properly cooked white rice.
The Panda Café in Foggy Bottom shares the same city block with other casual restaurants. Next time in the neighborhood, I plan to try one of the competitors.
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