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Pan Asia - Downtown

For Westerners living in Korea, Southeast Asia is a prime vacation spot. When a little bit of time off from work presents itself, we flock to the warm climates and beautiful beaches of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia etc. It’s as though a stint in Korea is incomplete without a brief escape to these tropical paradises. Aside from the breathtaking scenery and interesting culture, we often are most impressed with the food these countries have to offer. Now Pan Asia, a new restaurant located right in the heart of Downtown, gives us the opportunity to revisit some of those flavors we fell in love with.


Daegu native Jin GyuBae, the 26 year-old owner and head chef of Pan Asia was trained to cook in Qatar. This may seem surprising, but Jin explained that the tiny country is actually a melting pot packed with over forty different nationalities, including a large contingent of Southeast Asian people. It was here that he got most of his exposure to the cuisine that would eventually become his trade.


The interior of this second floor establishment has the look of a modern loft apartment. An entire wall is made of giant windows which extend all the way up to the incredibly high ceiling. A veranda-like second floor of seating towers above the five tables down on the main level. The open kitchen, located just in front of the entrance, looks extremely organized; well stocked without being cluttered.


The menu offers plenty of options without being overwhelming. It is divided into appetizers, noodles, rice and entrees. Each section has three or four dishes to choose from. There is also a nice assortment of imported beers like Singha from Thailand and Tiger from Vietnam.


Chef Jin started us off with a variety of fried spring rolls of all different shapes and sizes. They are served in a tall wine glass lined with a napkin for a cool presentation. Each roll has distinct ingredients that manage to complement each other perfectly. My favorite was the ultra-fine-fried-rice-noodle encased whole shrimp. We also received rice paper rolls (which you may know as summer rolls). Consider these a healthy alternative to the deep fried spring rolls. They are served cold and come packed with shrimp and fresh vegetables. Both the spring and summer rolls come with a dishful of sweet chili sauce for dipping.


For our main dishes we were first presented with a giant plate of chicken pad thai. The noodles, egg, sprouts, chili sauce and red pepper flakes were separate on the plate, so before digging in we mixed it all together. If you aren’t into serious spice, then lay off the red pepper flakes because they really provide some kick. Anyway, as a pad thai fanatic, I can honestly say I was beyond satisfied with this delicious concoction. The chewy noodles contrasted with the crunchy sprouts while the simple flavors of lean chicken and scrambled eggs blended in seamlessly. Next we got a beautifully presented ball of pineapple fried rice. The yellow rice stood tall on the plate, bursting with huge chunks of pineapple. With just a hint of curry, this exotic dish was a huge hit at the table. Chicken with cashews was brought to our table next. The pan fried pieces of chicken were covered in a rich, sweet, brown sauce and garnished with big crispy leaves of bokchoi and, of course, cashews. Finally we got the dish Chef Jin is most proud of: chicken with eggplant and chili sauce. We could immediately see why our host was so excited to show off this impressive platter. Long strips of chicken breast and thick discs of eggplant are fried separately before being smothered in delicious homemade chili sauce. Mixed in were some diced raw scallions, giving a delicious accent to every bite.


Like most of the restaurants reviewed here in Daegu Compass, the prices at Pan Asia are very competitive. Appetizers cost between 5,000w and 6,000w, the noodle dishes are all 10,000w and under, the rice dishes cost about 8,000w and the entrees, which are for two people, are from 15,000w-19,000w. The imported bottled beers cost between 5,000w and 7,000w. There is also Guinness Draught available for 9,000w. If you prefer a cocktail, then definitely spring for the mojito, served in a giant stainless steel bucket and prepared at your table (only 5,000w and good for two people). 


You should have no trouble finding Pan Asia as it is right in middle of what is probably your weekend carousing wheelhouse; on the main strip of foreigner bars, just opposite of Bunny's Bar on the same side of Who's Bob and Thursday Party. Take a cab to SamdukSobang-so or the subway to Banwaldong station. So next time you are craving a taste of that awesome vacation you took not so long ago; be sure to check out Pan Asia.


Written by Lee Flory / Photos by Yuri Lee and Pan Asia