Monday, September 27, 2010
Fast Food Review: Panda Express Kobari Beef
I cut Panda slack for two reasons. First, they gave me a lot of nice memories when I was a teenager. It was always a thrill when Panda provided lunch at my high school and I didn't have to eat a lousy chicken patty sandwich for the tenth time that month (or my backup lunch of nachos and gummi bears). My brother and I would sometimes stop by Panda on our way home and load up on orange chicken if we were in the mood for it. When I was 16 I ordered a beer at the Panda Express at the Glendale Galleria. I didn't even want the thing - I don't believe I'd ever had more than a sip of beer at that point - I just wanted to see if they would give it to me. Which they did, with no questions asked.
Second, some of the promotions Panda comes out with aren't have bad. The quality at different locations varies tremendously - more so than any fast food chain I have ever eaten at - but I have had orders of the Beijing Beef that almost rivaled Yujean Kang's crispy beef. (Emphasis on the "almost.") Their honey walnut shrimp, which I thought was going to be terrible, was actually crispy, high-quality shrimp.
So when I heard about Kobari Beef the other day - marinated beef with peppers, leeks and mushrooms in a "sweet, smoky, spicy sauce" - I decided it needed to be tried.
It doesn't look like there's very much beef in the picture. That's because there wasn't. The meat you do see, on the left side of the photo, is the orange chicken that made up the other half of my two-item combo. I found one decent-sized strip of beef that I was able to separate and photograph; all the other small pieces scattered throughout the veggies were smaller than a dime. I hope it's at least tasty, I thought to myself.
It was as bland as could possibly be. I could not taste any of the three flavors they advertised. The beef wasn't bad, it was just... flavorless. I scooped up several pieces of veggies with sauce and a couple of the tiny pieces of beef and ate them in a huge bite, hoping a massive amount of food and sauce would provide some flavor. Nope. Nothing.
If the line at Panda Express hadn't been so long - there was an older couple holding everything up; they had some kind of coupon that apparently they thought entitled them to all the free food they could eat, or something like that - I would have gone up to the counter and said something about the quantity of beef and quality of the sauce. Maybe not a direct complaint, but a pointed "Is this supposed to have so little meat?" But I did not feel like waiting in that line a second time, and, one thing I've learned about this particular Panda Express, they don't really care what they're doing. (I had clearly stated to the server that we would be eating there; for some reason they put my food on a plate and Elizabeth's food in a styrofoam to-go box. They don't even listen to you.)
I am sure I will go back to Panda Express in a few months when they come out with a new item, but definitely not until then.
Posted by JustinM at 10:49 AM