PÁN Restaurant | Wokingham (UK)

PÁN stands for bold and blended flavours in contemporary Pan-Asian dishes.
This accessible approach will satisfy X, Y and Z generation diners!

Sometimes nice finds can be right under your nose. Living part-time in Wokingham, Berkshire (UK), we have driven past PÁN Restaurant dozens of times while searching for new dining destinations or returning from a culinary delightful find. But we never noticed this Pan-Asian venue, which opened in October 2018 at the space vacated by the Teak House (a Thai restaurant) on Peach Street.
After coming across it online and being intrigued by photos on social media, it was time to check out this tapas style cuisine based on Chef-Proprietor Charlie Blacker’s experiences in Thailand and Dubai.

Born and raised in Emmbrook (a suburb of Wokingham), Charlie Blacker left at 19 to travel the world. This took him from appearing on a central Asian TV show, while working in Kyr­gyzs­tan on a 7-month charitable project, to working at a 3 Michelin star restaurant in Kyoto Japan. From 2010 Charlie cooked on private super yachts for the über rich and famous all over the world. Seven years later, the then 42-year old chef was ready to settle down in his home town in Berkshire.

PÁN Restaurant is open from Wednesday to Saturday for both lunch and dinner. The short and concise menu changes monthly influenced by a different region of Asia and offers just 8 dishes and 2 desserts (all under £10). Each dish is created with two diners in mind, so sharing is encouraged. For two persons they suggest to order 4 to 6 dishes.

We had dinner last week Friday and selected 6 dishes from the menu, to start off with….

Crispy Chicken Thigh Pancakes
Crispy Chicken Thigh Pancakes (£8.90)

A paper-thin Chinese steamed pancake (the ones we use to roll in crispy Peking duck), packed with shredded chicken thigh meat. Beautifully seasoned with coriander and chilli with a proper after burn. Crunchy cucumber and punchy hoisin sauce on top to complete the flavour burst. Very nice start!

Braised and Glazed Pork Plums
Braised and Glazed Pork Plums (£9.40)

Perfectly braised, melt-in-the-mouth quality pork cheeks coated with a spicy glaze. Some spicy sauces can be all heat and no flavour, but not this one! Sesame satay counters the spice well, together with the crisp apple. This is just plain delicious!

Shoahsing Braised Leeks
Shaohsing Braised Leeks (£6.80)

Leeks braised in Shaohsing (or Shaoxing), which is a Chinese rice wine made from fermented rice, with grated hen’s egg. Leeks were nice and soft, but a bit stringy and difficult to cut with the not so sharp knives. The Shaohsing was boldly present with a strong punch of fish sauce. A bit too much for me and on the verge of getting unpleasant.

Boozy Battered Red Gurnard
Boozy Battered Red Gurnard (£9.30)

Red gurnard has firm flesh with a very low oil content and can dry out quite quickly. But this one, captured in lovely light and crispy batter, was moist and succulent. Well-cooked and nicely seasoned too. Miso tartar sauce with coriander and lemon grass was great with the fish. I’ll have this fish with my chips every day! Delicious!

Sweet and Sour, Smoked Skrei Cod
Sweet and Sour, Smoked Skrei Cod (£8.90)

Smoked skrei, just cooked, all glazy and shiny. Skrei is a Atlantic cod, caught around the Lofoten, a group of islands off the coast of Northern Norway. It’s a winter-cod and only available from January to March. The skrei was served with bitter radicchio (purple chicory), plenty of hazelnuts and a mustardy vinaigrette. Excellent combination. Really works all together. 

Caramelised Salt Baked Turnips
Caramelised Salt Baked Turnips (£6.90)

Salt baked turnip was soft with lovely flavour of the garlic and ginger. The bit of charring from the hibachi (Japanese barbecue) helps with the flavour as well. Could do with more sauce and crunchy garlic bits to add texture. 

This was the last dish we ordered. But I couldn’t resist to order another portion of pork cheeks. Not because we were still hungry; it was pure greed! We also wanted to try the cep polenta chips on the menu, intrigued as to how they would look like.

Cep Polenta Chips
Cep Polenta Chips (£7.40)

Certainly didn’t expect this. Like chunky triple cooked chips. A delicate but proper crust, with a fluffy polenta mash inside, infused with cep mushroom. Perfectly seasoned and very tasty. Chilli heated yuzu mayonnaise to dip them in. I think we found the perfect chips to go with the gurnard!

Yorkshire Rhubarb, Almond & Coriander Cake
Yorkshire Rhubarb, Almond & Coriander Cake (£7.90)

By now we were quite satisfied, so we just ordered one dessert between us. Spongy, fluffy and moist cake with a pleasant balance of almond and coriander. Rhubarb is refreshing and delivers a great flavour. A huge ball of vanilla ice cream on top. Surprisingly pleasant and tasty dessert! 

I love it when a chef has a distinct signature and it’s clearly visible here. PÁN stands for bold and blended flavours in contemporary Pan-Asian dishes. Seasonal produce enriched with distinctly present ingredients and old techniques like: smoking, pickling, curing, burning and preserving.

Young and cheery front of house with casual easy-going service is aligned with the atmosphere, the food and the plating. And let’s not forget the reasonable pricing. This accessible approach will satisfy X, Y and Z generation diners.

A recommendable place. We certainly will be back to try the next menu!