Who does not like Chinese take out? Or have a memory of Chinese take out? Chinese food modified for Americans is probably the most favorite comfort food for a lot of people. Unfortunately, not all Chinese take out restaurants are sit down dining ready. Enter P.F. Chang’s. What was once a restaurant that tried to present Chinese flavors and cuisine to the American dining public in a comfortable environment has now spread hotter that the woks that produce marvelous Chinese food. P.F. Chang’s have managed to grow across the country and replicate Asian flavors into our stomachs with the deftness of a very oiled machine. The signature double lions at their entrances almost promises a regal experience. Ceiling round lights and over the bar murals with dark woods and low lighting have all made hallmarks of what to expect from a P.F. Chang’s restaurant.
My introduction to this restaurant chain was on an invite from a college classmate at Florida International University. I was instantly moved even at that impressionable time. Many times while contemplating deep collegiate topics in hospitality I saddled up to the bar and fed my starving belly. Or was it my brain? Needless to say one of my favorite dishes back then and still is now, is the Kung Pao scallops. Having dined in several P.F. Chang’s over the years and way before the incubation of this blog, I am a little surprised that some of the things I respected about this marvelous chain have started to slip.
On a recent visit to the fashionable Mall at Millenia, I was happy that there was not a long wait to dine at P.F. Chang’s. Maybe that should have lit off the alarms. We were greeted nonchalantly and with hesitation lead to a table. Ironically, I sat on that same table many times. Maybe it had my name on it. The server was quick to point out the P.F. Chang’s Four Courses for Two menu for $39.95. Wow, that sounds like a great deal. Lucky for us some of our favorites were included. So we settled in and let the lion dance begin.
RIESLING, S. A. Prüm, “Essence”, QbA, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, 2009 – Bouquet of pears, with a light touch of minerals on the palate, light bodied, with a refreshing finish.
EGG DROP SOUP – Their version of this traditional soup with egg, julienne carrots and green onion. It was thick and on point.
HOT & SOUR SOUP– Chicken, tofu, bamboo shoots, egg and mushrooms, balanced with hot white pepper and vinegar. Good flavors.
SALT & PEPPER CALAMARI– Tender strips of calamari lightly dusted and tossed with a salt and pepper mix and green onions, served with a dipping sauce. The menu indicates that this dish is tossed in salt and pepper, right? Well, salt and pepper is served on the side. While I appreciate portion sizing and cost controls, I really think that padding a dish with crispy noodles to make height and size is not my experience with this restaurant chain. Loved the dipping sauce.
KUNG PAO SCALLOPS– Stir-fried with peanuts, chili peppers and scallions. The heat level of this dish was very mild. But all of the flavors I have grown to love is still there.
BEEF Á LA SICHUAN– Flank steak strips cooked until crispy and tossed with julienne celery and carrots. When they say “crispy” they really mean “hard” or so it was delivered. In the past I’ve had this dish and if memory serves me right, it was never this tough to eat. Needless to say I had to send it back and switch to another dish.
MONGOLIAN BEEF– Tender flank steak wok-cooked then quickly tossed with scallions and garlic. The meat was cooked well, however, the sauce was like sugar syrup. Way too sweet for me.
THE GREAT WALL OF CHOCOLATE– Six rich layers of frosted chocolate cake topped with semi-sweet chocolate chips, served with fresh berries and raspberry sauce. Okay this is a mini, but when it was full sized, I would devour the whole thing. It still delivered!
RED VELVET CAKE MINI– Moist red velvet cake layered between cream cheese filling topped with cinnamon sprinkles. Nice silky textures, decadent.
Over the years this restaurant has continued to deliver a high quality of food, drinks, and service. I am disheartened that there were so many misses on this visit. There were a couple of glitches with food running and auctioning of food at the table. The proverbial opening question, “Would this be two checks or one?” Really? You need to ask, right off the bat. Isn’t modern Point of Sale Systems capable of splitting checks with the touch of a button? This has not been my experience over the years. Most P.F. Chang’s I have dined in has been on point. When my out of state family comes to visit, here is my go to place. I’ve always had a great experience, now….