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Inside the Panda Express 'Innovation Kitchen' in LA

[Photos: Frank Lee]

Fast-food chain Panda Express now has a "live test restaurant" in Los Angeles offering a full tea bar, wraps, salads, and other experimental dishes that might "shape the future of Panda Express." Eater LA reports that the Panda Express Innovation Kitchen debuted today in Pasadena with a more (shall we say Chipotle-like) fast-casual vibe that "reimagines what a Panda Express would look like," according to a press release. The revamped concept offers diners more meal customization than the Panda Express counters they're used to: Orange chicken wraps are among the new dishes.

The Los Angeles Times reports the new menu requires guests to select a base (chow mein noodles, a scallion pancake that turns the dish into a wrap), protein (honey walnut shrimp, chicken breast), sauce, and toppings, then stir-fries the dish to order. A separate counter, near a section of plush chairs and conversation nooks, houses a "tea mixology" bar that serves "artisanal tea infusions," boba teas, and pastries.

But don't get too cozy with the new Panda look. The opening-day "American Chinese aesthetic," the release notes, is not set in stone: Panda Express plans to use the space to "test and experiment" with possible new design concepts. Additional Panda Express Innovation Kitchens are also slated to open in Hawaii and Texas.

· Panda Express Innovation Kitchen, A Swanky New Fast-Casual Concept [ELA]
· All Panda Express Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Fast Food Coverage on Eater [-E-]