I know I am supposed to bring you the list of place to order from every weekend, but today is an exception. Today’s post is not just another food place that you can order from but one of the best places you can ever order from.
A few weeks ago, when I got a message from chef Vikramjit about his new venture, I was both surprised and happy. Surprised because in these times when established restaurants are struggling to stay afloat, here is someone opening a new one, and happy because anything that Vikramjit and Anurodh do is bound to be exceptional. When I had first met Chef Vikramjit Roy, he had come across as one of those chefs whose biggest priority is taste. Technique, he had said, makes sense only when the palate enjoy your food. Having launched multiple Asian fine dining restaurants across Delhi and Mumbai, he surely knew. So, when he fed me dozens of dimsums and small plates at The Kimono Club, he did not rave about how he made them but gently asked if I liked what I ate. I surely did and went back many times.
While Vikramjit had planned to open a large Pan Asian restaurant, the lockdown foiled his plans. Not to be deterred, he went ahead and redesigned the whole concept. Today, just three months later, the restaurant is a niche delivery kitchen with food that can compete with the best fine diners, packaging that is both safe and aesthetic (sealed boxes and jars) and delivery that is impeccable. Vikramjit’s Hello Panda is a game changer in the Asian delivery space.
So let us come to the food.
Before sending me the meal, the Hello Panda team had asked me what would I like to eat. Knowing Vikramjit my simple response was “whatever he wishes to cook for us”. The thing about the best chefs is that they remember what you like and know their menu best. What came home was a series of boxes — all machine sealed and locked and in a lovely sturdy bag. Some bore unpronounceable names, some familiar ones but all were beautifully labelled and arranged. There was sushi and maki, dumplings and curries, stir fries and cold plates, rice and noodles, soups and desserts.
I hadn’t seen so much food in ages. It was also my first Asian meals in months — 6 months to be precise. Before this I had eaten a curry and rice from Hyatt’s TK’s. Given Asian is my favourite and also one cuisine I rarely cook it was indeed special.
We started with the Pumpkin Soup. A hearty, peppery thick soup it was the perfect palate cleanser. The sweetness of pumpkin was complemented by the kick of the pepper and the thick yet smooth texture was most gratifying. Post which came the maki rolls. This was a sampler so we had 4 kinds — each dunked in home made soy sauce (which I also drank directly from the container) eaten with ginger and wasabi that brought the kick I hadn’t experienced in a long, long time.
The cold plates, we had the organic spinach with sesame, told me how a skilled chef like Vikramjit can make something like spinach so good. There was shredded potato with chili, which looked and tasted like noodles at first and then took over the palate, shredded lamb crispy dry which is our eternal favourite and chicken whose name I cannot pronounce but whose taste still lingers. What stood out from the meal was the quality of the produce and the ingredients. Not that it comes as a surprise in Vikramjit’s kitchen where you do expect the best produce and ingredients to be used.
Because Vikramjit had sent so much food, we had to stash away most of it for the next day, which was a blessing because I did not have to cook.
The velvety green curry, rice, stir-fried greens and tofu was eaten the next day at lunch. The curry was absolutely delicious and luscious, the tofu gave us enough heat to eat with just boiled noodles (I boiled some hakka noodles at home), the stir fried greens (also my absolute favourite) had retained both texture and taste and had not a trace of cornflour — another sign of real and good food and the rice was enough to feed all four of us.
The lunch, because we ate it so leisurely, tasted even better than the dinner and was finished off with chocolate mousse and peanut butter tart that I had kept away at night. The mousse unfortunately sank (a mousse with no artificial stabilizers will always sink and so I know it was the real thing), the peanut butter tart meanwhile was a beautiful amalgamation of sweet and salty. I was in food heaven as were my kids and husband.
To sum it up, the food was as good as Asian food gets. To me it wasn’t a surprise at all because I know about Vikramjit’s skills. The management — packing, time of delivery, smile and courtesy of the staff, updates on the delivery — were impeccable, again if you know Anurodh you know it is normal operating procedure for him. That I have the option to eat fresh, hot (the food reached absolutely warm and fresh) asian food made by Vikramjit at a fraction of a cost of any other such place is one of the biggest joys!
Will I order again from Hello Panda? Yes, very soon and very often.
What will I order in? I will probably get a lot of dimsums, massaman curry, noodles and ramen — things I have not yet tasted but things I love.
Should you order in from Hello Panda? You absolutely must. Their website is beautiful and friendly and gives you details of every dish. There are many mini meals too as there are options to customize.
As always, don’t forget to tell me how much you loved it.