HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >

How does one make PF Chang's taste like authentic Chinese? Start by eating at Jasmine Cafe.

ipsedixit Sep 7, 2010 10:21 PM

Sometimes you'll drink homemade moonshine just to make Trader Joe's Two Buck Chuck taste good.

Other times, you'll condition yourself to eating styrofoam because you've got a box of rice cakes at home that's just taking up space in the pantry about to go stale.

And there are times like these, where you'll actually find a place that makes you long, no yearn, well actually CRAVE, something -- nay, anything -- from PF Changs.

Fellow 'Hounds, I present to you ... Jasmine Cafe in San Marino.

It bills itself as a "substitute for 'mom's home cooking'". Well, ok, but only if Mom was from Pluto.

This place doesn't serve up Chinese food, as much as it serves up an imposter impostering fake Chinese food.

I could swear the potstickers were the ones I saw at Costco's freezer section the other day as I was sampling the mooncakes.

And the Lemon Chicken was so sticky sweet I was tempted to add some sugar to temper the flavor.

The Kung Po [sic] Chicken, on the other hand, was anything but sweet. In fact, it wasn't really anything. It was so bland that it made my ice water seem savory by comparison.

I know that I may be embellishing, but I could swear that the sauteed spinach we ordered was made from frozen spinach. I have no proof of this, but then I have no proof that it was made from fresh greens either.

Prices here don't seem that bad printed on black and white. But like everything else in life, context is everything. Once you get your food you begin to wonder if these are dim sum portions at full entree prices.


Go, if you must. But if you do, know that at the end of the meal you'll have this undeniable hankering for something better, like PF Changs.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. r
    reality check RE: ipsedixit Sep 7, 2010 11:04 PM

    The concept/point of PF Chang's isn't to make authentic Chinese food. I don't understand why people make a restaurant out to be something it's not, then rip it. Much like Tito's or Taco Lita.

    Taco Lita
    120 E Duarte Rd, Arcadia, CA 91006

    4 Replies
    1. re: reality check
      ipsedixit RE: reality check Sep 8, 2010 09:20 AM

      I wasn't suggesting that PF Changs was authentic Chinese. In fact my post suggests that PF Changs is anything but authentic.

      1. re: reality check
        Chandavkl RE: reality check Sep 8, 2010 09:38 AM

        I know P.F. Chang does not purport to serve authentic Chinese food. What I don't like is that they delude their diners into thinking they are eating some form of Chinese food.

        1. re: Chandavkl
          ns1 RE: Chandavkl Sep 8, 2010 10:02 AM

          "chinese inspired" food

          1. re: Chandavkl
            monku RE: Chandavkl Sep 8, 2010 08:11 PM

            Went to Pei Wei when it first opened in Pasadena and had the shrimp with lobster sauce. It was bland and uninspiring. Tasted like egg flower soup with shrimp in it.

            The company executive chef was there and I told him I could give him some tips on making the dish better. Nope, wasn't the least bit interested.... what does some lofan guy know about shrimp with lobster sauce.

        2. J.L. RE: ipsedixit Sep 8, 2010 01:18 AM

          Into each life some rain must fall...

          1 Reply
          1. re: J.L.
            ipsedixit RE: J.L. Sep 8, 2010 03:46 PM

            More like torrential downpoor followed by flash flooding.

          2. Chandavkl RE: ipsedixit Sep 8, 2010 08:14 AM

            Curse you Ipse! If I never heard of this place I'd be spared the agony, but now that I know about it I have to go check it out.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Chandavkl
              ipsedixit RE: Chandavkl Sep 8, 2010 09:22 AM

              If you go be advised you can get Gatorade by the glass. Why? Not sure. Maybe that's what mom served at home with Chinese.

              1. re: ipsedixit
                Chandavkl RE: ipsedixit Sep 8, 2010 09:40 AM

                Hmm. Maybe that's my way out. I have to go there since my 2010 Goals and Objectives require me to try every new Chinese restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley, so maybe Gatorade will work.

                1. re: Chandavkl
                  raytamsgv RE: Chandavkl Sep 8, 2010 11:18 AM

                  Time to practice your Iron Stomach Kung Fu. :-)

                  1. re: Chandavkl
                    catbert RE: Chandavkl Sep 15, 2010 12:33 AM

                    wow. talk about taking one for the team.

                2. re: Chandavkl
                  kevin RE: Chandavkl Nov 12, 2012 03:12 PM

                  Did you ever visit to try it out for yourself ?

                  1. re: kevin
                    Chandavkl RE: kevin Nov 12, 2012 04:24 PM

                    Yes, I did. However that was a few hundred meals ago and I don't have any specific recollection of what I ate there, except that I sure wasn't going to go back.

                3. raytamsgv RE: ipsedixit Sep 8, 2010 09:11 AM

                  As usual, I appreciate your eloquence and colorful metaphors. Thanks for the review! And my condolences for actually eating that stuff.

                  1. e
                    exilekiss RE: ipsedixit Sep 8, 2010 09:45 AM

                    Hi ipse,

                    Hilarious! :) And my condolences for suffering through that; thanks for the warning. :)

                    My question is: How did you pull yourself away from the plethora of great Chinese eateries just a few minutes south in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley (versus eating at Jasmine in San Marino)? :P

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: exilekiss
                      ipsedixit RE: exilekiss Sep 8, 2010 03:47 PM

                      "My question is: How did you pull yourself away from the plethora of great Chinese eateries just a few minutes south in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley (versus eating at Jasmine in San Marino)?"

                      Forgive me, father, for I have strayed ...

                      1. re: ipsedixit
                        raytamsgv RE: ipsedixit Sep 8, 2010 04:52 PM

                        You must atone for your heinous crime. Repent, and show your repentance by your deeds: eat dim sum at Elite and dinner at Seafood Village. Then your penance will be complete.

                    2. Mr Taster RE: ipsedixit Sep 8, 2010 10:10 AM


                      "Prices are subjected to change without notice."

                      Mr Taster

                      1. s
                        schmoopy RE: ipsedixit Sep 8, 2010 04:26 PM

                        Ipse, I've been there too and I know of what you speak! What a strange little restaurant. I grew up in San Marino (and that was back when the only restaurants in town were the "Colonial Kitchen" and Tony's Pizza) so I was totally going into the experience wanting to like it. One of my brothers still lives there with his family so he suggested we go there one day after going to see his daughter at her school's Christmas program. It was a late lunch/early dinner. He kept raving about something that he really liked there (for the life of me I can't remember what it was). I kept thinking to myself, "oh, this must be one of those hidden gems... ". As they brought the food out, and as I ate, I kept thinking I must be missing something here or that it was an off day. It was underwhelming to say the least. Totally forgettable. "an imposter impostering fake Chinese food" as you so eloquently put it! :o) Oh well... it was nice being with the family.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: schmoopy
                          ipsedixit RE: schmoopy Sep 8, 2010 07:11 PM

                          Sometimes it matter not what you eat, but who eat it with!

                        2. monku RE: ipsedixit Sep 8, 2010 08:04 PM

                          The tip off should be their website.

                          The trick is finding a good substitute for "mom's home cooking".
                          ...do they look like they can cook like your mother?

                          "Vivian Chan and Earlene
                          Cheung, two long time San Marino Volunteers."
                          Volunteers at what, making cookies and brownies?

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: monku
                            dreamcast18 RE: monku Sep 12, 2010 10:09 AM

                            tried it about a year ago...it was not good. Walk next door the San Marino Seafood and you will be happier.

                            San Marino Seafood
                            2150 Huntington Dr, San Marino, CA 91108

                            1. re: dreamcast18
                              andytseng RE: dreamcast18 Sep 13, 2010 10:17 AM

                              and sweet & savory is not bad either. both are ridiculously expensive though.

                              1. re: andytseng
                                ipsedixit RE: andytseng Sep 13, 2010 11:03 AM

                                Same could be said for Yoshida, just up the street.

                          2. cant talk...eating RE: ipsedixit Sep 13, 2010 04:25 PM

                            Thanks for taking one for the team, Ipse. My mom who llliterally lives behind that place (and eats out in the SGV constantly) ate there once when it first opened and declared it "the worst Chinese food I have ever had", and couldn't get through anything she ordered. One item (forgot which) was likened to 'biting into pure fat'. Been curious to go try this place just for the personal experience, so hadn't posted.

                            At least there's good ice cream (Fosselmann's) next door!

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: cant talk...eating
                              Mr Taster RE: cant talk...eating Sep 13, 2010 04:46 PM

                              For those unfamiliar with the area, it's worth mentioning that "next door" is 3.5 miles away :)


                              Mr Taster

                              1. re: Mr Taster
                                ipsedixit RE: Mr Taster Sep 13, 2010 04:50 PM


                                I think "can't talk ... eating" is referring to The Ice Cream Shoppe a couple of doors down from Jasmine Cafe, which carries Fosselman's ice cream.

                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                  cant talk...eating RE: ipsedixit Sep 13, 2010 05:46 PM

                                  Thanks Ipse.

                            Show Hidden Posts