Every now and then, a place comes by that really steals our attention. When food is a normal part of our every day, from restaurant tastings to writing articles dedicated to the latest vegan offerings, it’s not often that something pops up, stops us dead in our tracks, and drops our jaws in amazement. That, our friends, is exactly what happened when we first experienced My Vegan Panda.
Started by the same enthusiastic group of humans behind Munchies Diner, led by head chef Skyler Tanksley, My Vegan Panda takes the soul of American comfort food and combines it with the vibrant flavors of different Asian cuisines. The result is an array of dishes that reel you in with their familiarity and shock you with their unexpected pizzazz. This concept, which is unlike any other the streets of SoCal have seen, was spearheaded by chef Tanksley, who drew inspiration for the menu from his Black and Asian backgrounds. Both cultures are represented in his food, with his African heritage providing depth and his Asian background bringing vitality. This balance creates dishes that hit every possible craving with each bite.
Oftentimes, fusion concepts fail to hit the target, whether it be from weighing too much in favor of one cuisine, unintentionally blurring culture lines, or simply degrading a culture altogether by treating their flavors, techniques, and traditions with no regard. For that reason, it’s understandable to be skeptical about a new fusion pop-up. However, My Vegan Panda maintains its integrity throughout all the invisible boundaries, earning its place among the few fusion concepts to nail their mission right on the head. They may be a newcomer on the scene, but their caliber is that of Roy Choi’s Korean-Taqueria food truck, Kogi, who sparked the food truck movement back in 2008. We’re not entirely sure what impact My Vegan Panda will have on the food scene in coming years, but if it means more prestigious pop-ups from chefs of mixed backgrounds, we couldn’t be more excited.