The Royal Panda of Lafayette, La., formerly known as the Hong Kong Inn, is one of the best Chinese restaurants I've ever enjoyed. And I spent a year in China. A koi pond out front welcomes visitors who pass between two royal lions to enter the restaurant, styled with a pagoda look to its single floor. Etched glass scenes serve as dividers between dining areas, which include a well-appointed bar. The service is excellent, with each member of the wait staff eager to take care of all your needs. The restaurant is always spotlessly clean (after large family parties leave, the table, chairs, walls and floors are cleaned!) with its many decorative appointments sparkling. A separate sushi bar serves some of the best sushi you'll ever taste, always served with great presentation. The buffet is filled with great choices, including, apart from traditional Chinese fare, excellent seafood such as snow crab legs and shrimp, as well as a salad bar. And a soft-serve ice cream machine that kids (and a lot of adults) love. The restaurant also offers a menu and the inventive kitchen staff, run by owner Tony Lu and his brother Lou as head chef), will enjoy creating any item on the varied menu for you. Even better, they'll do their best to fulfill a request that may not be on the menu, if you help them understand which dish you're looking for. And what delights they can prepare. A dish that sounds incredibly simple is called Salt and Pepper Shrimp. It is presented surrounded by vegetables (I've had it with steamed broccoli so crisp it snapped with each bite and with thin stalks of green onion; don't know which I liked best). It is, simply, shrimp that has been so lightly breaded you see the shrimp through the coating; lightly and quickly sauteed, spiced with salt and pepper and magical things Tony won't share with me and served up, piping hot. It is a delight. The old stand-by Moo Goo Gai Pan is a treat at Tony's, the individual ingredients crisp and beautifully combined, not swimming in a sea of sauce as they so often are. Chef Lou's General Tzo's Chicken is a delightfully biting blend of flavors that will make your mouth and eyes water. Reasonable prices, more than adequate parking (spillover can park in the vast space provided by the Wal-mart at the back of the Panda property) and a full-service bar make this one of Lafayette's best, of any ethnic cuisine.
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I must admit that I went during my lunch break which took place in the late afternoon. That being said, the food and the service were great. I ordered a meal that came with a very large jalepeno with cheese inside and was fried, along with a chicken, beef, and cheese chimichanga. The service was so on point and the food was the best I've ever had. No other mexican restaurant can compare, in my opinion. Great spot for lunch during the week, sounds hectic according to the other posts, for weekends. But I'm going to try a weekend experience and just get there early in the day.