I've eaten at a P.F. Chang's about two or three times before and each time I thought it wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. Oh, there are people who think P.F. Chang's is the greatest in Chinese cuisine, but there's a little "mom and pop" Chinese restaurant in Davenport that I think is better.
You'll normally find a P.F. Chang's in the more upscale areas of larger cities in America. And that's the clientele P.F. Chang's is looking for - the affluent or upscale shopper or theater-goer looking for a good meal. The menu is a mix of traditional and contemporary Asian cuisine that includes a number of appetizers that include their famous lettuce-wrapped chicken (right), seared Ahi tuna strips and their dumpling pot-stickers that people rave about. I think they're OK, but nothing that makes me crave them.
Now, finding an open restaurant on Christmas Eve in downtown Chicago - as we found out last year - can be somewhat of an adventure. We always go out to a movie on Christmas Eve and we either eat dinner before or after the movie. (This year's movie, by the way, was "Walk Hard", the "Walk the Line" parody starring John C. Reilly and Jenna Fischer. It was actually very funny.) We tried to get reservations into Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab just down the street from our hotel. However, they were completely sold out for the evening.
We ended up going to the early movie and started walking around trying to find someplace that may be open. We tried Su Casa, a Mexican place that I've eaten at before, but they had just closed for the evening. We didn't want to eat at the Weber Grill, attached to our hotel. So we decided to walk to P.F. Chang's next to the hotel (see map). Eric had been eyeing the place each time he walked by and he was "jonesing" for Chinese. I said, "Oh, well. Yeah, we can go in. Our choices are obviously limited." (Photo courtesy Planet 99)
P.F. Chang's began with a collaboration between former oil man, turned restaurateur Paul Fleming and Philip Chiang. Fleming owned the Ruth's Chris Steakhouse franchise in Beverly Hills, while Chiang owned the immensely popular (but now closed) Mandarin restaurant down the street. The concept for P.F. Chang's was on the board for three years before Fleming approached Chiang for help on the project. It took Fleming a couple more years to convince Chiang to lend his expertise, even naming the restaurant after Chiang.
The first P.F. Chang's opened in Scottsdale, AZ in 1993, and others soon opened across Southern California. There are now over 160 P.F. Chang's in 35 states all owned by P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Inc. The company also owns over 130 Pei Wei restaurants in 22 states. Pei Wei features traditional Chinese foods and isn't as upscale as P.F. Chang's.
We were seated right away and were greeted by Kyle, our over-exuberant waiter. Immediately, he began to push the appetizers on us. After our big lunch at Rosebud on Rush, we weren't overly hungry. But since P.F. Chang's makes a lot of money on their appetizers, he was trying to push some on us.
I ordered a Tsingtao beer, Eric got a pop and Cindy got hot tea. While he went to get those, we looked over the menu. As I said, P.F. Chang's has a mixture of traditional and modern Asian cuisine and I was having a hard time trying to figure out what I wanted. I wasn't ALL that hungry, but I needed something. What, I didn't know.
Kyle came back with our drinks and took our order. Cindy got a bowl of the hot and sour soup with chicken and ordered one of the seared Ahi tuna rolls. Kyle then asked, "And what for your main entree?"
Cindy looked at him and said, "Oh, that's it. That's all I'm having."
Kyle sort of recoiled in surprise. "Oh, OK!"
Eric ordered the sweet and sour pork. After much thought, I got the Mongolian beef. What the hell.
Kyle got our order and left. That was the last time we saw him for about 30 minutes. Another guy from the kitchen brought out our food. During that time, I'd run out of beer, Eric had run out of pop, Cindy's water for her tea was getting cold. Our waiter had just plain forgot about us. It was a good thing we had water at our table.
Cindy liked her soup and the seared Ahi tuna roll. She offered me a bite of one slice and it was very good. Eric said he liked his sweet and sour pork, and my Mongolian beef was spicy. But other than that, it was sort of bland.
Kyle finally showed up as we were finishing up our meal and asked how everything was. I said, "Well, I've wanted another beer for the last 20 minutes. My son has been out of pop longer than that and my wife's water for her hot tea has turned lukewarm."
He said, "Oh, well, let me get those things taken care of for you."
I said, "You know what? Don't bother. We're done with our meal. We wanna get out of here." Although Cindy did want her water warmed up so she could have a little more tea.
Our bill came to just over $55.00 with tax. I left a $4.00 tip with a note, "Kyle, don't forget your customers!"
Like I say, I've gotten better Chinese food in much smaller restaurants in the Quad Cities. I think P.F. Chang's is over-priced, over-hyped and certainly not worth the puffery they present. While the food is good, it's not much more than what I would categorize as a "Red Lobster for Chinese cuisine".
But that's just my opinion...