The budget end of Chinese cuisine in Abu Dhabi suffers under the tyranny of the Beijing Restaurant. As good as those other places can be, they're no Beijing.
It can be terribly annoying. True to form Panda Panda, located near the Al Hosn fort, is no pretender to the Beijing throne. Still, it has a pretty good stab. The decor is clean, cheerful and spacious, with the usual light chinoiserie and a few plush panda bears to confirm that you did, indeed, hear the name correctly.
Service is efficient and polite without unctuousness and as for the food, my hot and sour soup was exactly the right blend of crisp spring onion and viscous MSG-ish broth.
The fried shrimp dumplings requested by my friend were a little greasy and flaccid. But the beef in oyster sauce was very good - tender, succulent and well-cooked - and so was the duck in satay sauce, strange as that combination sounds. A further advantage: the duck was served off the bone.
Take that, Beijing. Both meat dishes came with crunchy broccoli, fresh and wholesome as all the vegetables served during the meal. A side-dish of kangkong in garlic reinforced this virtuous impression. Second best isn't bad at all.
Near Al Hosn fort, Electra Street, Abu Dhabi (02 633 9300)