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So i went to PF Changs

  • MVNYC Dec 22, 2006 06:33 AM
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I asked a month or so back about this place as i got a gift card. I took peoples recs and got the salt and pepper prawns. Yawn.....

Fried shrimp with some honey mustard style dipping sauce. The shrump werent even crispy. They were good quality shrimp but honestly nothing to write home about. We also got the sichuan scallops. These were decent quality but all you could taste was sweet and hot pepper. Neither of these dishes excited me. The wait was 45 minutes which we got around by sitting at the bar. I really dont understand why anyone would wait on line for food like this. Then again people wait in line for the cheesecake factory. Even for Americanzed Chinese food, this stuff was unispired and overpriced.

I really tried to go into this with an open mind and judge the food on taste and not as an example of chinese food. As food it wasnt awful, but it was overpriced and not worth the wait. It really is amazing how people can consider this quality dining or justify the price or wait. People are lemmings

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  1. I agree with your assessment. I have tried twice and it was underwhelming both times. I continue to be perplexed as to why there are such long lines. My conclusion: the food is "safe" in its flavour range and textures, and is designed to appeal to a broad audience, making it a boring rendition of Am/Asian/Chinese cuisine. In addition, the service is marginal when special requests are made to address nut, shellfish, and pork allergies (not mine, but friends with whom I dine).

    I prefer supporting and investing time, money and palate in local restaurateurs who endeavor to present authentic or creative cuisine. Therein lies adventure, discovery and new favourites to enjoy!

    1. I have to agree. What boggles my mind is that, almost without fail, there's *always* an extraordinarily long wait for a table at the local outlets of PF Chang's. The only time I've ever been was when I stopped by at off hours, and could immediately get a table.

      I proceeded to order my brother and SIL's favorite appetizer, which wasn't temperature-correct, filling, nor that tasty. It wasn't that it was necessarily *bad*, or inedible, but was it worth the trip, and the relatively high price? Heck, no. Would I have been upset quite a bit had I waited an hour or more for a table? You betcha.

      It's chains like these that are giving Americans a bad name, or at least are giving us a reputation as believing that cookie-cutter food somehow qualifies as haute cuisine simply because there's a long wait, a decent ambience, and high prices.

      1. Ate there once in San Antonio.Had the Moo Go Gai Pan.I think the same dish at China Moon,a small restaraunt in Universal City,just down the road from me is better.Plenty of food, and hot from the wok to boot.It gets a lot of people from Randolph AFBase there.Yeah,had to wait with my sister and our friend David there at P.F.Chang's but not too long.

        1. Went once in Cincinnati. We had one of those %$#%^&^ gift cards! How i hate those things but that is another rant. Went with the people who gave us the card. No wait for a table my DH and I split a bowl of noodle soup, it was plenty. I forget what my friends DH had. She just wanted egg rolls. The plate was so covered in grease that as the waiter approached the table with then and leaned in to serve them they slid off the plate in their own slick and hit the floor. There was still room left on our card. I gave it to a young couple who claimed to love the place in Indianapolis. We'll not go on our own volition. Too much good food around to waste our time and money on PF Changs.

          1. Interesting comment about the wait. When PF Chang's started out in Arizona in the '90s, there was a no-reservations policy. Long waits were de rigeur, and at one point the chain even made the long wait part of its advertising campaign, showing a happy couple enjoying their meal and explaining how they would be the object of envy by everyone waiting outside.

            Since then, PF Chang's has changed its policy and now accepts reservations. I applaud that move but still find the food better at my neighborhood Chinese restaurant.

            1. We used to eat at PF Chang's years ago when we lived in the Charlotte area, and we really liked it then. But then I ate at one on a Business trip in Atlanta a couple of months ago and was really disappointed. I'm not sure if I've just had a lot of really good food in the interim, or if they've gone downhill, but I won't be rushing back any time soon.

              1. The best thing I like about PF Chang's is the fact they offer brown rice. Brown rice is so delicious when paired with real Chinese food! If only they could start some brown rice movement among traditional Chinese restaurants. :P

                3 Replies
                1. re: chica

                  I noticed that one of my local independent Chinese restaurants started offering brown rice at the same time that lettuce wraps were added to the menu. Perhaps there is a PF Chang's influence at work. While I share your enthusiasm for brown rice, my impression is that in most of East Asia it is considered a poverty food and is often associated with wartime rationing or pre-industrial economies. I think that authentic Chinese restaurants seldom offer brown rice simply because it might be considered unpalatable or even backward in modern China.

                  1. re: silverbear

                    SB, Asian cultures have avoided brown rice because it spoils, is subject to storage pests (weevils), and requires much more fuel for cooking.

                  2. re: chica

                    In Boulder "Healthy City" Colorado, all/most Chinese restaurants offer the brown rice option -- and even some sushi is also available that wasy (notably pre-packaged or fresh-ordered at Whole Foods and Wild Oats markets).

                    We are not cursed w/ a PF Chang's. A downtown Cheesecake Factory and several other chains are enough, thank you.

                  3. I think the reason PF Chang's is so popular is that Chinese food in so many areas is so disgusting. Too oily, sweet, salty, usually a bunch of glop.

                    I have given up on most Chinese and now eat Thai food instead, where it is easier to find lighter food that has bright, interesting flavors.

                    I think Chang's has done a lot of market research to find out what tastes appeal to the American masses and then adjusts their menu accordingly.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Snackish

                      Huh?! "Too oily, sweet, salty, usually a bunch of glop" refers perfectly to the last meal I choked down at a PF Chang!!!

                      Ever taken a gander at their coconut curry vegetables-- a cloyingly-sweet, gloppy atrocity? Or their lemon chicken, where the sauce has the consistency of melted gummy bears? The lettuce wraps are good, sure, but now they're available at Pick Up Stix (a southern California chain), where the food is cheaper AND better (but still not as good as the best San Gabriel Valley places).

                      No more PF Chang for me. With the best Asian food (authentic and fusion) in the nation always within an hour's travel from my house (if it isn't in southern CA, I can fly up to northern CA), why pollute my taste buds with the ersatz stuff?!

                    2. No reason, for those stuck in the boondocks, it may be better than anything else.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: saeyedoc

                        yeah... everything you have to take everything perspective.. i'm positive in new york the chinese food must be awesome, as it is on the west coast... if you are in places where chinese food may not be readily available or fosters the perception of "mystery meat" or a "bunch of oily glop" then pf changs bay be the better option....

                        i can go either way.. it wouldn't be my first choice to eat at pf changs, but i wouldn't be totally disgusted if i had to go there. but i would prefer to eat non-americanized chinese food because, well, in my area, we're blessed with such an awesome selection such that i don't think i've ever had the issues that other folks have posted about...

                        the one time i had bad chinese food was when i was in a particular area of mainland north america that wasn't quite known for it's chinese cuisine... and didn't have that much diversity too in the first place... in that situation, i would have LOVED pf changs... hahahahah

                      2. bleh

                        1. I love PF Chang's! Take away my CH card, but at least the ingredients are quality and I'm not eating Mystery "meat" like at most Chinese restaurants.

                          TT

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: TexasToast

                            I agree with that. The chicken isn't gristly like at so many local Chinese places, and the food is less greasy. They also have vegetables that I like as side dishes, such as asparagus or snow peas. I don't like broccoli, but that seems to be among the only vegetable offerings at most standard Chinese restaurants.

                          2. I have to agree with the posters about PF Chang's being consistent and having quality ingredients. I take this point of view: I occasionally go to Olive Garden (ok, rarely) and Macaroni Grill (more often). Although both purport to be Italian restaurants, I don't judge them by my usual standards for Italian food. They are "pseudo-Italian." And as far as "pseudo-Italian" goes, Macaroni Grill is pretty darn good. Olive Garden has a long way to go.

                            In the same way, PF Chang's is "psuedo-Chinese," and that is the standard I judge it by. The ingredients are good quality and the food is consistent. As far as chains go, it is worlds apart from any food court Chinese place you would find in a mall. However, I love my local Chinese restaurants and will in no way use PF Chang's as a replacement. It is simply a nice change of pace. It's also a nice way to try foods for the first time that I may not want to explore when ordering take-out over the phone (most of the Chinese places by me are strictly take-out).

                            1. Thats the thing, i tried to go into this without viewing PF Changs as authentic and just go by the food. the food itself wasnt particularly good, nor was it horrible. it was however overpriced and there was a terribly long wait. PF Changs is just like all other chain food, they take out whatever is interesting by subjecting the food to focus groups and surveys. If these groups resulted in great tasting food, it wouldnt be a problem. Americans tastes tend to veer towards ultrasweet. So while they may have decent ingredients, they do not make those ingredients sing. The thing that sort of irks me is that people will wait for an hour to eat this overpriced food under the guise of it being "gourmet".

                              For the price of two meals at PF Changs you can go eat out at a top quality independently owned restaurant. For those same two meals you could eat 4-5 times at a local authentic ethnic restaurant. For the same price you can go to an authentic place with sefood so fresh you pick it live out of tanks. With so many options for my dining dollar, a place like PF Changs is simply a poor choice. I guess I am lucky to have lived in places with choices my whole life.

                              1. It's a fun atmosphere that's asian-fusion, not something you're going to find in a Chinatown. You know that going into it. This restaurant serves a purpose just like the hole-in-the-wall "authentic" Chinese places.

                                They have food there for people with different tastes that have an Asian twist or influence.

                                We always get the chicken lettuce wraps and hot and sour soup. They also have some nice steamed fish entrees. This place also caters to health concerns (unlike a lot of Chinese places). There is a glutten free menu, can request food to be steamed or made with less oil and it's a give no MSG!

                                1. My 11 year daughter loves PF Chang, so my wife and I took her to the one in Torrance, CA. My only complaint was when we were seated my wife asked if we could have a booth insteed of a table (we were the first ones there and the restraunt was empty), but the hostes told us that the waiters/waitess had assigned tables and we would not be able to change seats. After some time the manager came over to us and we were allowed to move. The food itself was excellant and we will be returning soon.

                                  1. I hate when they tell me the waiter on another table has not arrived yet, so they can'g change me!
                                    Having waited tables, I am not fooled easily in a restaurant about good service, good food, and how it all works from the kitchen to the front door. I also learned to eat better food waiting tables at a private club. Prior to that, I thought canned fruit cocktail was a dessert! Now, I go to a decent French place or a Calif cuisine to have some great fresh foods prepared well. And even then, there are disappointments.

                                    1. If you're williing to wait for a table, nothing at all impressive and over priced for what you receive. Yet trendy.

                                      This was our third (and most likely last) visit to PF Chang's, each time in a different city. We tried the hot and sour soup, vegetable chow mein and mongolian beef. As with both previous experiances, we left feeling Panda offers better food at a much more reasonable price.

                                      Thought a glass of wine might be a nice compliment to our meal. The wine list is less than mediocre and everything can be found in most supermarkets for under $25 a bottle. Opted to drink water.

                                      PF Chang's = McDonald's for Adults, serving overpriced americanized Chinese cuisine and liquor.

                                      1. I have the same issue with PF Changs that I have with Big Bowl. The food is overwhelmingly oily and heavy, and I always end up feeling sick for hours after eating their food.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: cheetobrain

                                          I have learned to order 'light on the oil' for the chicken Fried Brown Unpolished Rice.
                                          Other dishes don't have oil on the plain Brown rice!

                                        2. I have never understood the appeal of this place - I'm not such a snob that I can't enjoy a chain meal occasionally (Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris, Macaroni Grill etc.) but this place is just plain boring, not very good and has NO excuses. How can you screw up fried food with sweet sauce? The food at Red Pearl Kitchen is a thousand times better and no more expensive.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Alice Q

                                            As hard as it is to believe, the appeal of this place for me is the choice of BROWN UNPOLISHED SHORT GRAIN RICE! Same for any other place that gives that option, if what they put on it is more then acceptable.

                                            The Oriental Chicken Salad was a draw for me until they changed the dressing and even the greens about a year ago.

                                          2. The dishes listed on this thread are in fact the boring dishes. Moo goo gai pan is about the dullest thing I've ever eaten. I personally think PF Chang's has fantastic orange beef (or orange chicken or seafood), mongolian beef, kung pao chicken (the best!), and chang's chicken (their version of general tso chicken). The mu shu pork and hot & sour soup are very good too, and I've never gone wrong with the chicken lettuce wraps.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: starbucksbrew

                                              a couple weeks ago, i was in portland (oregon). my friend insisted that her coworker, who has a discerning palate, loves pf chang's, so we should try it since we had each never been there. it was without question one of the worst meals that either of us has had in years. having tried to block it from my memory, my recollection is now hazy.

                                              first, what's up with the "special sauce" that they mix for you from the condiment tray? we told the (very nice) waitress that we liked it spicy, so she made it allegedly spicy. we (she from san diego, i from san francisco) both found it sweet and weird. we tried dumping out half of the "special" sauce and filling the space with the rest of the chilli sauce, but it was still... flat... dull... boring. it was almost surreal. kinda describes the entire experience.

                                              after being tempted by dan dan noodles, which i love, i decided to play it safe and order something safe and easy: good old americanized kung pao chicken... something they couldn't possibly mess up. instead, it was utterly bizarre. it was definetely not spicy, but very sweet and yet again flat tasting. with small chicken pieces covered in batter, with almost no actual meat to them. for $12 or whatever it was, i was horrified.

                                              my friend got a dish from the "specials" menu that was described as noodles with ham and other things. i think it was part of a mongolian (or was it some other region? hunan?) promo. anyway, the noodles were obviously spaghetti noodles (i.e. de cecco), and overcooked to boot. shreds of ham(?) in pockets of the dish. it could have been carbonara, minus the presence of the egg. asian, it definetely wasn't.

                                              we must have looked so miserable that the kind waitress stopped by and earnestly inquired (side note: i've never been in a town with as genuinely nice people as portland) about our meals, and rustled up a bottle of sriracha for us.

                                              between the two of us for two dishes and an appetizer, plus tip for waitress (not her fault), it was $40. needless to say, i'm never going back, and my friend still hasn't forgiven her coworker.

                                              1. re: artemis

                                                I feel so bad for you - coming from SF and going to PF Chang's. And your friend was not even into the place. Only a place to go to if you're trying to please other people or have never had real Chinese food.

                                            2. After hearing all of my friends talk about how great PFC's is, I insisted on going for my birthday 2 years ago. My husband likes it, but he thinks Don Pablos is good Mexican and Olive Garden good Italian... I think it's okay, but will never choose to eat there on my own. I went a couple of months ago for a bachelorette party. The bride picked it because they couldn't get reservations at the Melting Pot... I guess I should be glad of that.

                                              As for "mystery meat" at local Asian restaurants, I avoid the issue by ordering tofu.

                                              1. I don't know anyone who thinks P.F. Changs is anything other then average tasting and over priced.

                                                1. I ate there a few times, and was moderately satisfied. Then I got take-out, trying to avoid the endless wait. The portions were much smaller than eating in the restaurant, and paying over $45 for 2 entrees, and 1 app. was disheartening for chinese take out. Worse, we were still hungry, and had to order local delivery anyway.

                                                  1. Shouldn't our first tip off be the lack of asian faces either dining or working there?

                                                    I wholeheartedly agree with the conclusion that it's overpriced mediocre Americanized food.

                                                    The only reason I go is that gaggles of pro baseball players eat there for lunch when they are in Boston. Good for getting autographs if you can put up with a crappy lunch.

                                                    1. The food itself is pretty blah. My girlfriend likes the lettuce wraps. Those are fine, but anything beyond that and a drink, I'd rather get up and go elsewhere. Then, I think there's a segment of people who get off on those "exotic" cocktails they serve, like a latent tiki-bar urge, or something.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: wontonton

                                                        the drinks aren't even good, and they're expensive.

                                                      2. I totally agree with the overwhelming opinion in this thread. The food is generally greasy, bland and overpriced. I have found the wine list to be OK, but not spectacular. DO NOT try the dan dan noodles. They are vile. I have been there about 6 times in various cities, usually at the request of colleagues or customers, and have never had a really good meal, just occasionally adequate.

                                                        1. A friend who does a LOT of traveling says that some PF Changs are far better than others, FWIW. Oddly, she says the one in Tucson is WAY better than the one she went to in Seattle. I don't think I'd probably go to PF Chang's if I went to Seattle, what with all the seafood markets and restaurants, but I'm glad she did, since I live in Tucson. I've eaten at the local one and it was pleasant, fresh, and tasty, not bad at all, but definitely "safe", as at least one person put it.

                                                          1. I think what you folks have to understand ist that, for a lot of places, P.F. Chang's is the by far the best chinese food in town. Yeah, if you live in a major city, probably not. But in, say, the middle of Kansas? I think it's great that there is a chain that serves Dan Dan noodles. I have no doubt that PF Changs would be the best chinese restauarnt in the majority of American towns. I live in Boston, where we have Taiwanese, Shanghaiese, Sichuan, Cantonese, Hong Kong seafood, etc. restaurants, and an entire chinatown, and even so, when I am forced to eat at PF Chang's, even I can tell that there is something about it that is vasty more appealing than your average "#1 Kitchen Family!" takeout joint.

                                                            I grew up in suburban New Jersey, and back then the only choices for chinese were grimy takeout joints and big tacky polynesian restaurants. I think that PF Changs is at least as good as the latter category of places.

                                                            1. Luckily I live in the Chicago area with many great Chinese, and other authentic asian restaurants to go to, so I dont have to settle for PF Changs, Panda Express for a meal. I have eaten at PF Changs once(and will never return), and was not surprised at how bad it was. Darn work lunches.

                                                              When I go out for chinese food be it the hole in the wall carry-out place, or the sit down restaurant, I want Chinese people cooking my chinese food, not a former Bennigans line cook who has just switched cooking locals...

                                                              1. Honestly, it's a chain, and chains just don't cut it usually. People who eat at chains are probably looking for consistency, no surprises, and just aren't very adventurous eaters. It blew my mind that when I was in Honolulu, with a zillion fantastic restaurants to choose from, which restaurant had a line out the door? Chili's. Freakin' Chili's!!! If you want to find the best foods, you have to be adventurous and a little daring...it quite often pays off with culinary experiences you will treasure.

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: tpalsole

                                                                  Right, that goes without saying. But my point is that there are plenty of places in America where there are NOT better options for chinese food. I think that a meal of dan dan noodles, salt and pepper scallops, etc. is fairly adventurous for some palettes not at all used to anything other than really bad chinese takeout

                                                                  1. re: tamerlanenj

                                                                    I really enjoy P.F Changs. My standard order is hot and sour soup, kung pao scallops, and one of the veggie dishes either eggplant or sichuan stringbean. Always good.

                                                                    1. re: lks to eat

                                                                      Absolutely better than bad take-out Chinese food.

                                                                      TT

                                                                  2. re: tpalsole

                                                                    tpalsole - When we were in Honolulu recently for a conference, the big line was at Cheesecake Factory -- Freakin' Cheesecake Factory.Everything posted here about unadventurous easters going for bland consistency and chains' priorities being predictability and profitability fits in with my take.

                                                                    BTW, in addition to avoiding Panda Express and PF Chang's, stay away from Pei Wei, which is PFC's less expensive offshoot.

                                                                    1. re: ClaireWalter

                                                                      The very healthiest food is not available at Asian restaurants, but it is at Changs, which is the reason I go there when nearby. The Brown Unpolished Rice is the bery best reason to eat there, if you like healthy food!

                                                                  3. I had lunch at PF Changs today for the first time. I liked the atmosphere and the service was superior. My lunch companion ordered veggie spring rolls and the dan dan noodles. He enjoyed both, but said he would pass on the app. spring rolls next time as the entree in itself was much more food than he could handle. I had the vegetarian ma po tofu and really enjoyed it. Surprisingly it wa not too saucy and the broccoli was cooked just right. I like the fact the food is served family style which makes sharing easy and the lunch prices are much more than reasonable. In a town whose ethnic food landscape is relatively barren, the chinese bistro is a surprisingly attractive option. I can't say I will be writing this one off as a typical franchise to avoid anytime soon, though we'll see if they are consistent as this location just opened.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: ArikaDawn

                                                                      I have always maintained that PF Changs is a decent place to eat with quality ingredients. It's not supposed to be "authentic" and it doesn't try to be.

                                                                      TT

                                                                    2. I agree with what others have said about it being better quality than some chains, yet too safe/generic. I went to PF Chang's for the first time in Franklin, Tennessee last week, and it's in the same realm for me as Cheesecake Factory (as in, I can find something to eat but I'd rather eat at a non-chain). The food was absolutely fine. It's not as gloppy as my local take out Americanized Chinese restaurant, but everything that was supposed to be spicy was decidedly not. None of the flavors were exciting-- pretty bland. But, (and correct me if I'm wrong) most of Franklin's mini malls are inhabited by chains of some sort, so choices are slim. What I really dislike about PF and CF type places isn't so much the food, but the manufactured "trendy" atmosphere that they use to, I guess, justify the prices. I'd much rather go to a hole in the wall with genuinely good food and bold flavors than buy into the whole charade, and I felt relieved coming home to my many diverse choices of non-chain food.

                                                                      1. I never really understood the appeal. I like it there, but it's not my FAVORITE Asian restaurant. I like the lettuce wraps and everything, but I find it so mainstream. I know I'm being unclear, but in a nutshell: It's a fine restaurant, but it doesn't deserve a P.F. CHANG'S REVOLUTION.

                                                                        1. We go for lettuce wraps and spicy chicken. Thats it. Its a nice change up every once in awhile. HOWEVER, we went a few weeks ago and were seated on an end next to the server station and the bathrooms. I heard enough foul language, complaints about customers and got slammed into enough times to last me forever. My Other got some spicy chicken and potato dish and the potatoes were practically raw. Server didn't seem to care much. Sent an email to corporate and have never received a response. Wow, I hate that!