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Horrid Meal at P.F. Chang's

  • b

It is typically very easy for me to avoid chain restaurants. Living in downtown Manhattan, I only have to dine at a chain if I actually want to (sometimes the Big Bacon Classic calls -- who am I to resist?). I was pulled into active Jew duty this past weekend, however, which resulted in a Saturday night spent with family in Jersey, and a Sunday afternoon spent with family at the Freehold Raceway Mall's P.F. Chang's.

Unbelievable. If I were to say that enjoying the food required culinary retardation, it would make the meal sound much better than it actually was. Crab wontons were composed of a crispy something wrapped around clumpy, pasty goo that tasted more of low-rent cream cheese than anything resembling crab. The seared tuna had no flavor. The sauce on the seared tuna had an off, unsettling flavor. The salt-and-pepper calamari included a breading seemingly designed to ensure that each bite of squid contained more oil than a high-school sophomore's forehead.

Then the mains arrived.

If you've ever found yourself wondering what people mean when they refer to bad Chinese food as "gloppy", then book a flight to Jersey. There is no better word to describe the orange peel beef, crispy honey shrimp, and dan dan noodles. Runner-up words include, but are not limited to: sticky, tasteless, foul, cloying, mushy, and hateful. All three of these dishes, though, were miles better than the steamed salmon with ginger. Unnaturally colored, cooked to death, and tasting like something that would come out of a can a few months beyond the posted expiration date, this was probably the single worst piece of fish I've ever been served in a restaurant. No exaggeration -- I cannot recall worse.

On the plus side, the vegetables in the mu shu pork were okay and the Mongolian beef was gone before I had to deal with it. Oh, and there was beer.

For what it's worth, I have eaten at PFCs in Tennessee and Virginia that were decent. This nauseous horror show seems to be a localized aberration -- one that's situated a hop, skip, and loogie away from a Cheesecake Factory, no less. Congratulations Freehold!

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  1. Great post!

    Sums up my thoughts re: PF Chang's(and I've only been to a "decent" one).

    Thank god they serve alcohol.

    1. Great review... The only thing worthwhile at PF Chang's are the chicken lettuce wraps. Everything else is pretty much terrible.

      1. I've never eaten at a PF Chang's, but I've read many a post about it here. So, I won't comment on the food or experience based on a personal visit, but based on eaters' comments:

        Maybe it's the cook staff?

        1. We had a meal that was so shockingly awful (incl over-salting, which they claim not to use) that I wrote them via their website. They sent three $10 coupons to assuage the horror.

          1. Is there any other type of meal at PF Changs.

            I do admit that their veggie lettuce wraps are actually quite good and the stir fry veggies, but everything else Ive had there has been pretty unbearable.

            But it sure is worth the 2 hour wait in Freehold right? Between that and Cheesecake factory, I just dont get it.

            1. if you're ever stuck here again, the steamed buddha thing is safe enough. so are the scallops or shrimp on the "healhy" menu.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Emme

                Those are the exact two things I would suggest along with the lettuce wraps. Only things not coated in sugar sauce and cloyingly sweet.

              2. I had never been to any PF Chang’s till a few weeks before and I cannot agree more with the comments made here!(I noticed that the post is over a hear ago!) I was tempted to go there once when visiting a friend in Seattle and the line was too long and the same happened a few months ago when I was in Princeton. I was in Freehold a few weeks ago for a meeting and it was kind close to 1:30pm when I stepped into PF Chang’s in Freehold, the place was decently filled with clients. I was taken to a booth immediately but had to wait a bit before the server made his appearance! I ordered an ice tea while he kept telling me how good some of the special teas were, despite I had politely insisted that I liked to have my ice tea. For lunch, I ordered the steamed dumplings and shrimps with lobster source. The dumplings quickly and the server showed me how to make their special sauce basically mixing the hot sauce, mustard and the vinegar together, it was ok but not anything great. After finishing the dumplings, which was nothing better than some of those frozen dumplings that you can get from the Asian stores, I was kept waiting for my shrimp with lobster sauce…I tried to get the server to check on the food but he could not be seen! People ordered behind me when I was eating my dumplings got their entrée! That kind of showed how long I had been waiting, when the food finally arrived, the server did not even apologize for the long wait! The dish was lukewarm and the shrimps were really tiny. I would have got the same dish with better quality for $6 for most of the Chinese takeout places for their lunch special with soup or spring roll….

                To me, eating out is mostly about the food but the ambience, the services are also essential. I should not expect too much from a chain store but for the price they are charging for some Chinese food, at least, make an effort! By the way, my server never refill my ice tea till the time when I was getting my check, he then asked me if I wanted a refill! Not sure if it was just my server or that this location is terrible! Anyway, I will not go to this place again, paying a premium for “terrible” American Chinese food with bad services is just not going to happen

                5 Replies
                1. re: HelenB

                  I've always found both PF Chang and Big Bowl to be overwhelmingly greasy and salty. After every meal I've had at these places I am reminded of the Kids In The Hall skit about the salty ham. I just want to down buckets of water.

                  1. re: HelenB

                    I really got a kick out of seeing this post pop back up after a year, especially since I very recently made the 2009 "Passover Trip to Jersey".

                    This year's visit included lunch at The Turning Point, which was really lousy, yet not disgusting enough to prompt another long-winded complaint.

                    1. re: big o

                      I, too, made a Passover Pilgrimage to New Jersey...from Arizona. Clearly, it's the place to be for Pesach. We had burgers at White Manna in Hackensack before Passover....great stuff.

                      1. re: ejs1492

                        I've decided that, next year, I'm going to give my sister-in-law a break and ask you to pick me up from the train station.

                        1. re: big o

                          White Manna rules, although in secret (not any more) I actually crave White Castles (8 with cheese, no ketchup please) and usually stop there on the way home from the airport when we visit my in-laws in NJ.....

                          Still, White Manna is exceptionally unique, and convenient since in-laws are in Hackensack.

                  2. If i had a dollar for everytime I read the word "cloying" on this site I wouldn't need a stimulus package. It's quite a popular foodie word.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: rochfood

                      According to Google, you would come up just shy of $11k. Not bad, but if I took a buck for each "foodie" on the site, I'd have topped you by over $300-grand.

                      Personally, the word I hate to see is unctuous. It just sounds smug.

                      1. re: big o

                        brilliant come back big o. For what it's worth...I never see the word "pedestrian" outside a crosswalk as much as I do on this site.

                        1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

                          "Foodie" is a "pedestrian" word. "Cloying" or "cloyingly" on the other hand....is a word that only seems to be beloved in a putdown way when describing overly sweet foods. "That food is just too sweet"...nah..it is "cloyingly" sweet. Ahhh...much better. Have you noticed my writing skills yet ?

                    2. I was forced into going to PF Changs once when I was in Atlantic City, the large group I was with insisted on going there, we ended up eating dinner at 10:30 because of the crowd. It was a total let down...