In the 19th century French novel Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours, or as you and I know it, Around The World In Eighty Days, Phileas Fogg a wealthy English eccentric wagers half his fortune that he can not only circumnavigate the globe, but that he can do it all in eighty days. Now during the height of the British Empire, this would have been rather impressive, capturing the imagination of the masses, as the reality of international travel shifted from fiction to reality.
Unfortunately by modern standards this grand voyage would most likely take around 24 hours and would include a drunken businessman and a distraught crying child. Luckily for us our taste for travel no longer requires, well, travel, as Panda Mami offers food from around the world, with no booking required.
Panda Mami is logistically just right, being positioned perfectly between the excitement of Micklegate and the hustle of the city centre. It is also a restaurant dedicated to setting the record straight, that less is definitely not more. And with a platoon of chefs creating over 150 dishes from across the globe everyday through lunch to dinner, they are hardly sitting idle.
It’s a simple concept, get a plate and fill it, so when in Rome, or Calcutta, or Tokyo, you get the picture. The plus one and myself got to prowling the produce, like the earlier traders of the silk road we negotiated dishes from Japan to North America, via India and the Mediterranean. We started with Uramaki, bite size seaweed wraps rolled in sticky rice, deep with rich umami flavours and drizzled in soy sauce, this was followed by a salad of wakame; a subtlely sweet seaweed, cucumber, carrot and more wasabi all in a bold citrus dressing.
Recovering from the wasabi wallop I’d dealt myself we moved on toward China. Our plates piled high with moreish chow mien that coated the inside of your mouth, spicy Sichuan green beans bringing a dangerous deliciousness to the humble runner and of course char sui, which is surely the food of the gods, mouth watering slices of Cantonese barbeque pork soaked in a thick molasses-esque marinade, which left us floating between ecstasy and a diabetic coma.
Moving westward on our culinary tour we hit the Indian subcontinent and Asian fusion, where a vibrant chickpea slow cooked. Curries alive with hot and sour spices mingled with fragrant lemon grass, coconut and chilli hot pots. Slowing in our pursuit to devour the world we pushed on, eating freshly cooked lamb skewers griddled before our eyes but alas with this morsel we had reached our personal peak, with comparison of what was left to try including roast beef, Yorkshires and gravy our summit was a humble hill.
Panda Mami is currently in a transitional stage trying to figure out where it fits into York’s exciting food evolution, it is playing the field and trying ideas. What it is however, is alive with activity, a living and breathing restaurant. It incorporates the transient need to feed, to try, to sample, to indulge; it champions the simple joy of eating in mass on mass. It’s for everybody, it covers all tastes and palates and from what I saw it had a clientele nearly as international as its menu. Students, travellers, expats and locals alike come and take refuge in hunt for a taste of home, wherever that might be. But that’s hardly a surprise, comfort food is a global concept, it’s medicinal.
Yes, we will never have the excitement of going to somewhere totally foreign but just because the world is getting smaller, doesn’t mean there is less to discover, it just means you don’t have to travel as far for a taste of the exotic.
Fly On The Wall/s Columnist Joe Thomas
Fly On The Wall/s