We finally made it to the new Empero Taste (formerly Best Panda) on Balboa tonight.
The restaurant is bigger now, and the walls are whiter, and there's an automatic sink in the bathroom, and a shark (or some other big fish) in the aquarium. The menu is also different, and there aren't specials on the wall (paint too fresh?). But overall it actually seems pretty similar to Best Panda.
We had a roast pork and chicken vermicelli, which was fine. Nothing special, but it was properly cooked, generous portion and not too greasy, which is what we wanted. So the people in the kitchen at least know what they are doing. We also had the spicy tofu and meat claypot. This was served in a large clay pot, bubbling so much that we had to wait several minutes before it was safe to start eating. Overall flavor was just okay - the meat was shredded pork, and the broth tasted sort of like ma po tofu and sort of like hot and sour soup. Spice level was good, but the overall flavor didn't end up being too interesting. But again, generous serving, nice presentation and showed potential for good cooking in the kitchen.
Some other tables had some great looking fish dishes, as well as clams and some nice looking fried rice. The workers had a nice looking family meal as the restaurant was closing - some very nice looking bok choi and roasted chicken. There was a section of the menu called "special wok" dishes which are served in woks. Some other interesting dishes on the menu too, as well as the 'expected' dishes.
Prices were still cheap - seafood was a bit more expensive, but this place did not come across as fancy at all, and our bill was only 14 dollars (though our meal was seafood free).
It's funny that they are called Empero Taste and not Emperor Taste. But
We got a complimentary dessert of some very sweet, warm coconut broth with what looked like sago.
That's about all. The menu is definitely worth exploring futher, though i can't guarantee any amazing discoveries.