There are lots and lots of small restaurants in Dali old town but they're really only suitable for Chinese clientele or those who feel that taking pot luck with their phrase book is part of the fun.
The Good Panda is a excellent bridge between those establishments and the handful of more westernised restaurants that one can find in the middle of town. The menu is available in English and proprietor speaks sufficient English for dining purposes (although he's not always there), so you get the local flavour without too much trepidation.
We ate there on three consecutive nights even though my wife was almost in tears the first time we went...
My sizzling beef was fine and indeed between us we had it three times in total (albeit with a varying amount of sizzle), but on that first occasion my wife thought she couldn't go wrong with the boiled chicken. How wrong she was! We ourselves are well used to boiling up chicken bones for soup and then picking them over for remnants for the cat, but there was no meat in this dish worth eating - just a motley collection of vertebrae and the like - and as there was no more to it than the stock itself it was hardly a meal. What really surprised us however was the relatively high cost - much the same as my dish, in fact.
Still, as indicated I persuaded her to give them the benefit of the doubt (not least as our hotel - the Gurong - wasn't doing food and I didn't feel too inspired by any of the other restaurants) and we did okay after that.
It's not going to win any prizes but for an ordinary meal it's probably as good as any and better than some, so if you want to eat in the local style I have no hesitation in suggesting you give it a go.
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