The Smoking Panda
Two flights of stairs above the Hotel Coronation on Park Street lies what at first glance looks like a tribute to 1970s suburban Chinese dining. Faded carpets are laid beneath kitsch red and gold dining chairs, and waiters with plates of prawn toast, dumplings and duck spring rolls traverse the space.
But there are subtle hints that this venue is not all it seems. Behind the bar, bartenders in dapper dress whip up modern concoctions from the selection of more than 400 spirits on offer.
There’s the Dunkin Doughnut Martini, a mix of dark rum, bourbon, vanilla and doughnut syrup, topped with half a Krispy Kreme. Or the Hot Smokin’ Mexican Jerk, a spicy mix of smoked silver tequila, chipotle, adobo, agave and ginger, garnished with fresh lime, bacon and beef jerky.
The food borrows inspiration from the local takeaway shops of so many Australian childhoods and thrusts them into the 21st century. Think modern, beautifully presented bar food tailored to a relaxed, shared-dining environment.
San choy bau gets a makeover with braised short rib, while soft-shell crab arrives served in a steamed bao slider with crisp Asian slaw and XO sauce. For dessert, there’s fried green-tea ice cream or black sesame panna cotta.