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Pandaville opens its doors
Fort Simpson restaurant sports new look and new menu

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, April 12, 2012

After being closed for five-and-a-half months a restaurant in Fort Simpson has reopened with a new name, new owners, a new decor and a new menu.

NNSL photo/graphic

Ai Lin Zou, left, and Peter Pang, the owners of the newly opened Pandaville restaurant in Fort Simpson, stand in the establishment's dining room, which has been extensively renovated. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

Pandaville, formerly called the Sub Arctic Restaurant, officially opened on April 2. One of the first things that regulars of the restaurant will notice are the new people behind the till and in the kitchen.

Partners Peter Pang and Ai Lin Zou are very familiar with the restaurant that they are now operating. Zou is a close friend of Victoria Lu and Richard Lau who ran the restaurant along with their family from 2005 until last October. When Pang and Zou heard that Lu and Lau were leaving, they contacted Kirby Groat, one of the co-owners of the building the restaurant is located in, to express their interest.

"Ai Lin's wanted to own a restaurant for a long time," said Pang.

After securing an agreement with Groat, Pang and Zou moved to the village from Edmonton, where he was managing a casino kitchen that Zou cooked in. While the couple waited for the extensive renovations to be finished to the restaurant, they started to introduce themselves to their new market.

Beginning in mid-February, Pang and Zou began offering a daily two-dish buffet. Each item was one that they planned to include in the restaurant's menu.

"We wanted to showcase what's coming," Pang said.

Now that the business is open the couple is continuing to refine their menu. They are currently offering an 18-item trial menu while they stock the kitchen in preparation for moving to the full menu, possibly as early as this weekend.

The menu contains a combination of Chinese and Western cuisine. Popular items so far have included dry garlic pork ribs, Cantonese chow mein and the combo, said Pang, who is tracking the popularity of each menu item and substituting in new items to replace those that aren't selling.

The couple is also open to suggestions. They have set up a Facebook page called Pandaville Restaurant to promote their business and to get feedback from the community.

One thing the couple has been getting a lot of complements on is Pandaville's new look. The renovation included a complete reworking of the kitchen as well as the seating areas in the restaurant.

The dark wood paneling and eclectic Asian themed decorations in the main dining room have been replaced with light painted walls that are complimented by a darker accent colour on the ceiling beams.

"Everything is fresh," said Pang.

Logan McKay was among the supporters of the new decor. McKay stopped into Pandaville for lunch on April 5. It was the first time he'd been to the restaurant since it had reopened.

"I've been waiting so long to come here," he said.

McKay used to come to the Sub Arctic once a week for lunch with his mom and once he heard the restaurant had reopened, McKay said he made a point to come in.

"I like the colours," he said looking around the dining room.

McKay said the new paint scheme works well and complimented the increased ceiling lighting. The flowers on the table are also a nice touch, he said.

Speaking on April 5 Pang said business at Pandaville has been steady since the opening with half of the orders between 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. being for take-out. Pang said he and Zou expect the business will build as people realize the restaurant is open and become comfortable with the changes.

"We are looking forward to the busiest time," he said.

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