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P.F. Chang's China Bistro

In a word: Chin's + $10/plate + A Smidge of Quality.

The specs: #0463  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at 77 Square, Yelp, P F Chang's China Bistro on Urbanspoon; official web site.

Latest P.F. Chang's China Bistro news and reviews

Aine and Pete ate the "Chang's for Two" with egg drop and hot and sour soup, crab rangoon, Mongolian beef, and Chang's spicy chicken with a Pellegrino and a cappuccino.
Chelly ate the honey chicken.
JM ate the moo shu chicken with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the ground chicken and eggplant with a jasmine blackberry iced tea.
Peter ate the Mongolian beef.
We all split a Great Wall of Chocolate and a few mini-desserts.
The bill was $123, or $20.50/person, plus tip.
Aine and Peter gave P.F. Chang's China Bistro an A; JM and Pete gave P.F. Chang's China Bistro an A-; Chelly gave P.F. Chang's China Bistro a B+; Nichole gave P.F. Chang's China Bistro a B (see our grading rubric).

P.F. Chang's China Bistro goes for the higher-end American Chinese experience with a theatricality that only a lifestyle center and ample parking can support. That snide comment aside, the fare is quite good in itself. The menu offers a decent but not overwhelming selection of items, including many vegetarian options. Its signatures include the lettuce wrap appetizer (touted on their billboard ads, which Pete aptly described as "a picture of a leaf with a pile of stuff on it") and tiny $2 desserts. Our visit was marked by decent food, trainee-level service, and about a million dishes.

Moo shu chicken

For starters, a hot and sour soup was beefy but neither very spicy nor very sour; the egg drop soup was better at being itself. Some crab rangoon were excellent: served very hot and crispy, with a crab:cream cheese ratio in good meaty proportion.

Of the main dishes we tried, the Mongolian beef was the biggest hit. It came in a slightly smaller portion than the other entrees, but each bite was tender and seared and paired well with the sauteed green onions that were more garnish than anything.

For the record, Nichole generally hates eggplant, but the gingery hoisin-based sauce made the ground chicken and eggplant more than tolerable. Chelly's honey chicken benefited from the texture contrast of a bed of crunchy noodles.

Honey chickenEggplant and chicken

The moo shu chicken was very flavorful, with a nice sauce that was tasty yet lacking soul. Instead of rice-based wrappers its starch was basically a short stack of flour tortillas. We all appreciated the real (as in not just tanned white) short-grain brown rice, though.

For dessert, a "Great Wall of Chocolate" cake was similar to its counterpart that kept out the hordes, though this one came with fresh fruit. And who can resist desserts served in shot glasses? Sadly only one of our choices, the s'mores, were do-again-able; the dry red velvet cake and apple pie were not as great.

Desserts

P.F. Chang's is definitely upmarket, always reliable, and frequently really good. That said it is not a place we'd ever take out-of-town guests, because they could get this food almost anywhere. Indeed, that is kind of the point.  But if you in-towners have a fussy-pants in your group that will balk at the selections at a place like Fugu, you could do a lot, lot worse than P.F. Chang's.

Comments

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I will probably never eat there. It's an inconvenient location, and I usually avoid chains. However, I love the concept of mini desserts. I wish more restaurants would offer smaller, cheaper desserts.

We like that place. Samantha always gets this really plain tofu dish and Carlos gets spicy shrimp stuff that is really good. White rice is always a hit with Emo, and I can usually get him to eat some chicken too. I like the fact that we can take the kids there and they will eat real food, not some junky "kid's" dish.

I have always found them consistent and incredibly reasonable. PF Chang's procided my first encounter with lettuce wraps which has since turned into a favorite appetizer when I can find them. And their costumer service is the best I've encountered in any chain restaurant. On one trip I overhead the manager carefully and patiently go over the menu with the diners at the next table to ensure food allergies were of no concern. That same trip there was a concern with one of our dishes and not only did they offer to prepare a new entree at no charge, but comped the entire meal...without a hassle or ill word.

I gotta ask: Nicole, why did you order eggplant if you don't care for it?

A theory I espouse about food I don't think I like is to have someone competent prepare it. If I still don't like it, it really is not meant to be.

I like your attitude, Nicole! Periodically, I revisit food that I don't like, and now I enjoy all kinds of things I didn't before (including eggplant). Still can't bring myself to like mushrooms, though, no matter how they're prepared or who prepares them.

I also like your theory Nichole. If a chef can make you like something that isn't your favorite, than that is a GOOD chef/restaurant.

Personally I love eggplant, however if I had to choose a eggplant dish for someone that didn't really like it, I would suggest one of two things.
#1. Choose an eggplant dish at an Indian restaurant, should be more flavorful there than anywhere else.
#2. Even cheaper, buy a good eggplant, dice it into 1/4" cubes, microwave until almost cooked, add a jar of quality tomato based spaghetti sauce [Newman's Own works well] and some Extra Virgin Olive Oil, cover & microwave until completely cooked. Can either be eaten "plain" or works great as an appetizer / spread.

Why is there a green square with artistic sun design at the beginning of my post???? I didn't put it there...

Ken, maybe you have a TypePad account but you haven't added a profile pic. I don't see the green square you speak of, but it sounds a lot like the default TypePad image I had before I added a photo.

I just made that last comment not through my TypePad account, and I got the same green square.

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