supersharpie-I've eaten at some of the best Asian food retsaurants in China, Hong Kong, San Francisco, New York, and Toronto so I feel my opionion on this subject is valid.
Big Bowl has incredibly good food for a chain and actually some of their dishes are better than some of the so called "great" local restaurants people recommend on this board.
Their steamed chicken dumplings are incredibly tasty and wrapper is light with nice sauce. The steamed buns are possible the best flavored and filling I've ever had anywhere. I normally get a double order. Most of their appetizers are very good to excellent. I had the pork chow fun on Friday night and it was a winner!
You can go here anytime. The only minor complaint is sometimes when they are busy, your food takes a little longer than normal to arrive but it is hot.
This place is thumbs up, especially for a chain.
I think the quickest thing is to say it's analogous in large part to PF Chang's. "Pan" - Asian with training wheels?
There's some new "cafe" outlet of PF Chang's in Herndon. A friend chose there to meet for lunch. I got there first and ordered her request and the dish I settled on. While in line I overheard one of the people of the couple behind me rave about this new dish he had - Pad Thai.
When our food came out, I asked the server (runner?) if they had fish sauce. The look of confusion on his face gave me the answer and told me not to push it any further.
SS - I love these opportunities to educate. Go to BB with them. But put as a condition that you're going to pick the next place. You can get some decent enough Thai in Reston (Thai Luang, Tarin Thai or as a second tier, Thai Towne) or Vietnamese (Pho Reston 75 - in Tall Oaks - not Pho 75 in Herndon) or you can make a small trek to 7 Corners to Hong Kong Palace or China Star in Fairfax for Sichuan, or maybe best yet - Annandale or Chantilly for Korean. Just go with them first to BB and make the second trip - of your calling - the second part of the deal.
Big Bowl actually has some fairly good food, perhaps even several dishes that are genuinely good. Chili pepper chicken is actually an addiction of mine that I find once a month or so I cannot resist. My anger is that their founding corporate chef has completely changed the menu twice since they opened five or six years ago. The predecessor to chili pepper chicken was "Thai Garlic Chicken with Peanuts" which, realistically, had nothing in common with any dish that I have ever tasted in a Thai restaurant anywhere on earth. Still perhaps remarkably it was addictively good. So good, that I post on this board several years after they no longer serve it, noting that I longingly miss it.
At the least there is "some" redeeming value in Big Bowl. Still, I cannot forgive the corporate chef for depriving me of an addiction he created... And, he didn't even have the decency to include the recipe in his cookbook!