Office-dwellers of Whitehorse rejoice: a new downtown lunch spot has opened.
Panda Panda Noodle House replaces the former La Patrona Mexican joint, next to Antoinette’s on Fourth Avenue.
It serves up a simple menu of Chinese staples, including barbecue pork, deep-fried squid and of course several styles of noodle and wonton soup.
Tiara Zhao started Panda Panda with her husband, Vincent Wu.
She moved to the Yukon in 2007, and her husband shortly before that, she said.
She was in China with her first child visiting her mom when Wu first visited the Yukon with a friend, and decided it would be a good place to live, said Zhao.
“He feels OK here, so I just followed him here at first,” she said.
“It is a little bit difficult because it’s boring, to move from a big city to a small town, not too many places to shop, just like that. “But later you will feel here in the small town it is still nice. In the summer you can go to outside, the nature. There are so many lakes.
“And the winter is still OK because we still have the Canada Games Centre, we still can do more sports, stuff like that. Especially, it’s not crowded like the big city. The big city has too many people, you know what I mean?”
Zhao is originally from the city of Qingdao, on the coast of northern China.
She called it “not really big,” although the city has 4.5 million people.
It is most famous for its beer, specifically the Tsingtao brewery, and the Olympics, said Zhao. Qingdao hosted the sailing events during the 2008 Beijing Games.
Before coming to the Yukon, Zhao was a student in Toronto, she said. She and her husband have previously run restaurants in both Alberta and Toronto.
They had been looking for a space to start a restaurant in the Yukon for a while, she said.
“The Mexican restaurant, they just finished, and we just got the news and it was the right time to take over.”
Inside Panda Panda, the freshly painted walls are decorated sparsely with decals of pandas munching on bamboo and cartoon cats.
Wu does the cooking.
“My husband, he’s Cantonese, he’s from Hong Kong. So, he does the barbecue pork especially.”
It’s made fresh every day, said Zhao.
The couple settled on a Chinese-style noodle house because of space limitations in the kitchen and because they wanted to offer something a little different from other restaurants in town, she said.
It also reminds Zhao of home.
“I’m from the north part of China, and we eat a lot of noodles.”
They special order homemade-style noodles from Calgary.
One of the specialities is the Taiwan-style braised beef noodle soup, said Zhao.
The soup is made up of a rich broth, noodles, Chinese greens and big chunks of tender braised beef.
It takes her husband six to eight hours to make the soup, said Zhao.
“The soup is very good.”
As a lunch spot, Panda Panda has a lot going for it.
The menu is simple, with a handful of appetizers and a handful of mains, and the service is quick.
The food tastes fresh and homemade, and prices for a bowl of noodle soup start at $9.95.
There are daily lunch special combos posted on the wall that pair an appetizer and a main, and encourage patrons to try something new.
Already Panda Panda is attracting some regular customers, said Zhao.
The restaurant only opened a week ago, and she’s seen some faces four or five times, she said.
“Many people, they come back again, again, even with their friends. That means they’re satisfied and they like our noodles.”
Panda Panda is open for lunch every day except Sunday, and for dinner seven days a week.
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at