Thursday, July 19, 2012

Finding a Hidden Jewel in Villa Park?

China Panda
17853 Santiago Blvd.
Villa Park, CA 92861

For ardent readers of my blog, you know why I am here. For the rest of you I will explain. I have a self  imposed December 31st deadline for myself to have blogged about a restaurant in all 34 cities in our great county. I want this blog to be about all of OC, not just places that our convenient for me. So after this review, we will have five more cities to hit before we can reach our goal. Right now we are headed to Villa Park.

Villa Park is one of the smallest cities that we have in OC. They have the smallest population, and they are second smallest in area, just behind the city of La Palma. It is probably no surprise that no one ever thinks of heading to Villa Park for a bite to eat. A quick search of restaurants located in Villa Park on Yelp, reveals six restaurant in the entire city. All of them are in the same shopping center, which just happens to be the only shopping center in the city. Wow, this city is small! With only six choices, and one of those being a Subway, our options are scarce. We head to the highest rated place on the list, China Panda.

China Panda fits into the vibe of Villa Park perfectly. Much like the city, the restaurant is very small as well. They have seven tables to choose from, and when we got here at 5 on a Saturday night, only two were occupied. We were greeted warmly, and given our choice of any of the empty tables. The decor is dominated by light purple walls and numerous pictures hanging on the walls. The one that struck my eye all night was a pencil drawing of Princess Diana. After checking out the rather large menu, we decided on five entrees, so lets take a look at what we came here for, the food.

After being seated we were brought these Fried Won Tons with a fruit sauce for dipping. I might have been really hungry, or these were really good, because I could not stop eating these. The fruit sauce was made out of apple, peach and pineapple, and was really a great compliment to the won tons. Kind of a Chinese equivalent to the chips and salsa served in Mexican restaurants.

The food came out really quick here. They have family dinner specials, where you get soup and appetizers to go along with your meal, but we all decided to pick one entree each, and then order an extra one, just for good measure. Not sure who picked this one, but it is the Hunan Spicy Beef ($8.65). This consisted of sliced, stir fried beef, with onions, bell peppers and carrots in a spicy Hunan sauce. The beef was really sliced thin, but in bigger pieces. It was very tender, with some good pockets of spiciness. The veggies were cooked well, and this was a solid plate of food.

I do know who selected this Vegetable Low Mein ($6.85), it was Katie. This was a dish that none of us were that impressed with. To be honest though, neither myself, nor my parents are really into low mein, especially a low mein without any kind of meat in it. This was not awful, but was just kind of plain tasting. The low mein noodles are joined by broccoli and mushrooms in this dish, that resembles an Asian spaghetti.

Back to some dishes that had meat in them, the Orange Flavored Chicken ($9.15). This generous portion of orange chicken was not overly sweet, but still held the citrus taste to the sauce. The chicken was fried nicely, with a nice crunch to it when bitten into. Way better than the stuff they serve at Panda Express.

I always love a Sweet and Sour Pork ($8.05), and at China Panda it was no different. The chicken is mixed with the sauce, pineapple, onions, and bell peppers. Much like the orange chicken the pork pieces were fried well, but the sauce was what made this dish. It truly was two tastes in one. You get the sweet at first, then the sour hits you a little later on. The result was a very balanced sauce, which was a little on the thicker side.

When I read the reviews on Yelp, almost every one mentioned the Honey Shrimp with Walnuts ($13.55). When this was placed in front of us, I was taken aback by the presentation of this dish. It was served in a taco salad shell, which I thought was unique. Maybe they were trying to present this as an ice cream sundae, since they topped this with a cherry. Not sure if that is what they wanted, but this dish was almost as sweet as a sundae. The shrimp and walnuts were covered in a very sweet cream sauce, which went well with the natural saltiness of the shrimp. Not the biggest serving here, but this was a very rich plate, or should I say bowl?

So you can now officially cross this tiny enclave of OC off of our list of cities we have not been to. I think out of the six restaurants in Villa Park, we made the right choice as to which one to visit. The Chinese food here is pretty old school. This is basically the kind of Chinese food that our parents thought was so exotic, but it really turns out it is really mainstream. I like mainstream sometimes, and I did like China Panda. The food was good, and came out quick and hot. It was also very fresh tasting, and you can see why they have been in business for 20 years. The menu is dotted with plenty of items that we can all feel comfortable eating. They feature over 50 beef, chicken, pork and seafood entrees. Be warned that this place is tiny, and on the day we were here it was warm outside, and they did not have any air conditioning. Also, the chairs were kind of uncomfortable, they could be the original chairs that they opened up with 20 years ago. So now it is on to the other five cities we have left to try. Seal Beach, Cypress, La Palma, Stanton, and Westminster we are headed your way!

Out of five hummingbirds, (because the hummingbird is the official bird of the city of Villa Park, probably because they are both really small), five being best, to zero being worst, China Panda gets 3 hummingbirds.

China Panda does not have a website, but you can find reviews and information here:

China Panda on Urbanspoon


  1. You should try the crema cafe in seal beach. Great breakfast and lunch spot near the beach. Great club sandwich.

    - Ty

  2. Ty - Crazy you should say Crema Cafe, that is the one on our list. Thanks for the tip and the comment!

  3. I've only eaten at one place in Stanton and it was the Mad Greek. It was a few years ago, but it was good. Kind of an odd little building as well.

  4. Well, Seal Beach is always a fun place to go to. You shouldn't have any trouble getting a good (if not great) meal. I'll make a plug for Beachwood BBQ which I think is fine (although they might have a consistency issue with the burgers, based on our last visit). I'm "probably" not a good critic, though, as I'm happy with Taco Surf, O'Malley's and - uh, yeah - Charo Chicken.

  5. Cody - We will probably go to Park Avenue when we have to hit Stanton. I really want to see what all the fuss is about. I do love a good gyro though, so maybe we could hit there after. Thanks for the comment.

    MikeHu - Thanks for the tips. I will jot all of these down. We have not tried Beachwood yet, but I know they have closed quite a few of them down. Hope this will not be the case for this one as well. Thanks for the comment and tips.

  6. OCE - Beachwood is not "Beach Pit" - whole different kind of pig!

  7. MikeHu - Thanks, I caught that now. Sorry, must have had sand in my eyes. Get it, because it is Beachwood? Okay, sorry for the bad joke.