Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >
Jun 8, 2012 03:06 AM

PF Changs

I coming to Shops at Don Mills, apparently.


Just when I thought it could not get worse than Jack Astors.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. UGH. The only time I eat at PF Chang's is when I'm traveling for work in the boonies somewhere and my only other choice is the Olive Garden. There is worse food out there, but really, does a city with so many GREAT Chinese restaurants need this? Makes me sad.

    10 Replies
    1. re: TorontoJo

      I was amazed by the crowds and line-ups at Joey and Biermarkt at the Shops last Friday. As far as I could tell, the crowd that used to drive from the burbs down to The Brant House, Spice Route and Brassaii each weekend have discovered free parking at TSADM. The hostess at Joey told us the wait for a table at 9 pm was going to be around 3 hours. Amazing that a business like Joey, that started out as Joey's Tomato, which resembled Alberta's answer to East Side Mario's 10 years ago, can draw crowds like this in TO.

      It probably will be a very profitable location for a place like PF Changs. On the bright side, at least it'll create some more jobs, and help drive the economy :-). I don't think the typical PF Chang customer would be likely to dine at any of our great Chinese restaurants around town, anyway. I've never dined at PF Chang's but I think I'd prefer some seriously Westernized Chinese chain restaurant spring rolls over the crappy $21 cheese fondue at Biermarket.

      1. re: prima


        Mr. Vuitton and I went to TSADM one Saturday night during the winter (we were both in at the office for the day, and just wanted a beer somewhere close-ish to home). We do like the beer menu at the BierMarkt. We arrived around 8pm, there was a 45 min wait at Jack's, a 90min wait at Joey's!!! and we managed to snag the last bar stool (he stood) at BierMarkt. I was shocked at the crowds and the level of "night club" dress; it did look like a 905 crowd We were in very casual attire and all I could think was "people are getting dressed up for the BeerMarkt??"

        I agree that PF Changs will be successful (blech!), I guess I am just disappointed at what I thought was a very interesting mall concept becoming more and more pedestrain.

        1. re: CocoaChanel

          Now that I think about it, the layout at TSADM does seem to have pedestrians in mind, so maybe it works better to have more pedestrian options available! Ha ha. Thank goodness for Aroma and Linda.

          Has anyone tried the gelato place next to Aroma?

          1. re: prima

            nyuk nyuk nyuk! :D

            Walked right into that!

            Hollywood Gelato is within walking distance from home, so I tend not to stray far from there.

            1. re: CocoaChanel

              You can walk to Hollywood Gelato? Or dear lord, I would gain 100 lbs.

              1. re: TorontoJo

                Why Hollywood when you could have Il Geltiere?

            2. re: prima

              I had gelato last night from the place beside aroma and it was very good - I got the salted caramel and banana peanut butter. Yum!

          2. re: TorontoJo

            Pf changs don mills. Underwhelming. Entire staff needs to learn how to be hospitable. Not a single "welcome" or "how is your meal". Not even a smile. Again, i observed this with the entire wait staff. No comparison to the atmosphere we have experienced at the tampa location. This initial impression left us with no more than a mediocre opinion of the food. Hope this can be attributed to opening jitters. Aug.15

            1. re: Ralbarb

              Wow, really?

              We went last week and it seems this has been addressed because they couldn't have been any friendlier. They even had a greeter at the door. The hospitality was very much evident when we were there.

          3. I cry with you. *shudder*

            1. There are worse places to complain about. IMHO our Canadian chains are much worse off than this one, not that this is hard to accomplish. If someone tries to yank your nose down and make you go, try the salt and pepper shrimp which is fairly decent for what it is.

              17 Replies
              1. re: ThoughtForFood

                Yep, like I said, there is worse food out there. The chicken lettuce wraps are fine. My biggest gripe is the incredible over use of SALT. It's killer.

                1. re: TorontoJo

                  and sugar...... , but I guess that is just white people chinese food for ya. They adapted the cuisine for our tastes and I guess we love deep fried salty sweet stuff.

                  1. re: ThoughtForFood

                    I believe it is referred to as Canadian Chinese more so than white people's.

                    1. re: justsayn

                      PF Chang's is Americanized Chinese. We mostly have Mom + Pop Canadianized Chinese, Canadian Chinese Food Court, Canadianized Hakka Chinese, Canadianized West Indian Chinese, Francophile Chinese (foie gras mango mayo roll ! ), not-so-Canadianized Chinese (the places that offer English language menus and Chinese language menus, with different dishes on the different menus), and barely Canadianized Chinese (pretty authentic taste-wise, but the har gow and won tons are golfball-sized at these places, perhaps reflecting how popular golf is in Canada), so this might be a welcome addition to the assortment of Chinese options available in TO. :-)

                      1. re: prima

                        lol prima
                        Any thoughts on why white people put soy sauce on their rice? Is it self-hate?

                        1. re: julesrules

                          Ha ha. I have no idea. I'm guessing more soy sauce on the rice (as well as dunking sushi and sashimi in soy like a stale donut in coffee) also helps drive the economy, because more sodium increases beverage sales, which also increases total sales, so the Gov't might end up with more sales tax, unless you're dining at a restaurant that only takes cash. Increased pop sales probably translate into more business for dentists, Goodlife and Dr. Bernstein.

                        2. re: prima

                          Very good prima. And you are just scratching the surface. Don't forget about Western Canada Canadian Chinese, and HK style Canadian. How about authentic Canadian Chinese....

                          1. re: T Long

                            My parents can't wait for the opening of PF Chang's. They love Joey as well, yet, curiously, have shown no interest in the BierMarkt at TSADM. I just keep my mouth shut when they talk about the menu at Joey which has "everything" and the fabulous food from the PF Chang's they've been to in Buffalo and Miami. I stand to gain nothing by disparaging their tastes. I can deal with the menu at Joey, but I hope they never try to drag me to PF Chang's. Let them enjoy the gloopy sauces, western vegetables and forks on tables instead of chopsticks. I'll stick to places that serve house soups with meals, bring my table rice in a thermos with a lid, and serve head to tail dishes. The scariest thing to me about Westernized Chinese restaurants is the soy sauce on the table that has the consistency of syrup. It's not dark soy, but it's not light soy either. What the heck is it? I think the reason people use it on rice is to make the rice less dry when they force it down. If rice isn't served in a small soup dish, it isn't as easy to enjoy with a bite of the dishes ordered.

                            1. re: 1sweetpea

                              Regarding your "scariest thing" soy sauce, and I have not observed this too closely, but I don't recall any soy with the "consistency of syrup". I know mushroom soy (which is very authentic Chinese), can be quite prominent in Canadian Chinese restaurants, but it does not have the consistency that you are referring to. I do find mushroom soy makes the best fried rice (Canadian style of course). Perhaps you are referring to oyster sauce (brown in color) which I understand is very authentic Chinese and does have the consistency of syrup? However I would not link oyster sauce as exclusive to Canadian Chinese...far from it.

                              1. re: 1sweetpea

                                A few things:

                                Is Joey not owned by the same company that runs Pickle Barrel?

                                That TSADM couldn't support a great, well-curated bookstore but is ripe on becoming an Entertainment District North wannabe is... disappointing to say the least. Night-club evening wear to go out for dinner? In Don Mills? Really? Yes, thank goodness for Aroma and Linda. And Congee Queen across the road.

                                Rice has a flavor. My guess as to why some people have to splash soy on it is because they've become so used to having super adulterated processed 'food' saturated with salt, sugar and fat that it would be too weird to have anything plain.

                                1. re: neighborguy

                                  I am pretty sure that it is GLOW fresh grill that is owned or related to Pickel Barrel and not Joeys. Also at TSADM (like that acronym)

                                    1. re: neighborguy

                                      I know my Chinese condiments well. My kitchen is well stocked. I'm speaking specifically of the condiment in a soy sauce dispenser on every table in Westernized Chinese restaurants. It has a consistency closer to China Lily dark soy than light soy sauce. Nothing like oyster sauce which is closer to hoisin or ketchup in consistency. What is "scary" about it to me is the colour (like molasses) and the taste, which is super salty and different from the soy sauces I cook with in my kitchen. I'm sure I chose the word "scary" because it is dramatic, but when I think of how salty Chinese foods tend to be, it's hard to imagine a place for that thick soy, on rice or anything else.

                                      As for plain rice, when I eat in Chinese restaurants, I ask for a small bowl for my rice, so that I can take a few items from the dishes ordered and place them on my rice to be eaten together. Very little of my rice is eaten on its own.

                                      I'm praying that my parents enjoy their PF Changs experiences with their friends and not try to drag me there. Like you, neighborguy, I'd rather hit Congee Queen instead.

                                      1. re: 1sweetpea

                                        Hmm...I remember China Lily soy....I didn't remember it as being particularly syrupy, but then it's been a while. Now I will have something to look for in a Canadian Chinese restaurant...."scary" sauce!

                                    2. re: 1sweetpea

                                      First time I made Chinese for my SO he poured tomato JUICE on the plain rice. Not ketchup, not tomato sauce, CANNED TOMATO JUICE! I thought to myself "wrote that how white people eat."

                                      And we're still together.

                                  1. re: prima

                                    and we also have Junk Chinese food passed off as Cajun food (Bourbon St. Grill) and Junk Chinese food passed off as Caribbean food (Caribbean Queen).

                          2. how is it compared to Manchu Wok?
                            same level of authenticity and skillmanship?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: atomeyes

                              Definitely better than Manchu Wok, but that is a low low bar :)

                              1. re: CocoaChanel

                                I don't know about that... Machu Wok has an edible Sweet and Sour pork... where as PF Chang's Sweet and Sour Pork is pretty bad.

                            2. Toronto's food scene is incredible and the addition of PF Chang's seems just weird to me. Buffalo, maybe.. but Toronto?
                              From the tacky Terra Cotta horses out front to the riduclous 2 hours wait with a beeper. Sadly, this is most of American's experience with Chinese Cuisine. Makes me sad.
                              I'm moving back to the US next week. Thank you Toronto for giving me 2.5 years some of the greatest ethnic food on the planet. World class city and amazing country.

                              13 Replies
                              1. re: letrell

                                Happy you've enjoyed your time in TO.

                                Re: PF Chang's choice of location
                                PF Chang's seems to open in upscale mall locations, regardless of the overall quality of the city's food scene, and regardless of whether there are a number of better ethnic restaurants nearby. There's a large PF Chang's location in the Beverly Centre in LA, another city with an incredible food scene and lots of great ethnic eats. When I first saw the TSADM, it reminded me of the upscale, outdoor mall near Century City. It was also filled with large, relatively upscale chain restaurants, packed with well-dressed Angelanos who could have been eating anywhere in LA, but were choosing to eat at a mall. I figured Don Mills was doing its best to offer to our burbs what LA offers to its upscale burbs.

                                1. re: prima

                                  Oddly I was taken to a PF Changs while on business in Valencia, Ca. Well north of LA but still plenty of options for food and they all wanted to go there. Thought it was fine, and probably better than most of the places in Chinatown here in TO. It's not worth a special trip for anyone on this board, but still better than almost all of the Canadian chains dominating the malls here. I'm sure they will have 2 hour plus waits on the weekends.

                                2. re: letrell

                                  as they would say to you when leaving PF Changs:

                                  "Sianara and good luck yo!"

                                  1. re: letrell

                                    Hey, if Spring Rolls can thrive here despite the abundance of similarly-priced, far better restaurants in the city, then I don't see why there isn't room for PF Chang's as well. I've only been to PFC once, and I wasn't crazy about it, but my recollection is that it was fine dining compared to the mediocrity of Spring Rolls (but then if you take pretty much any American casual dining chain and compare it to its Canadian equivalent, the American one will inevitably come out ahead).

                                    1. re: Michael N

                                      CPK (California Pizza Kitchen) would also make a perfect addition to the Don Mills mall. Same target audience.

                                      1. re: Yongeman

                                        I would hope we get a Cheesecake Factory here before we can CPK. I like ethnic and good food and rarely go to Cdn Chains. But would love CF over Joeys, Milestones, Boston Pizza, Kelseys.
                                        And I would never wait more than 15 min for a table - not for any restaurant.

                                        1. re: caitlink

                                          From what i understand, there is ZERO chance of a Cheesecake Factory opening here. Apparently, the U.S. parent has no interest in coming to Canada.

                                          BTW... since you seem to be a fan of the Cheesecake Factory, i would love to know what location seated you in under 15 minutes! Unheard of! LOL

                                      2. re: Michael N

                                        I'm not a fan of Spring Rolls by any means, but have found myself choosing to go to them from time to time. The reason is usually location and alternative choices in the immediate location. For example, in the Yonge/Dundas and Yonge/Sheppard area, the alternatives to Spring Rolls for me have been dismal....sometimes a Spring Roll's Pho and rice roll does the trick. I don't think its any coincidence that Spring Rolls is absent from much of Scarborough, Markham or RH where there can be better choices...Cantonese in particular.

                                        A fusion Asian restaurant chain like Spoon and Fork seems to do pretty well by staying away from the same area, and concentrating on Mississauga/Oakville. I think there is an untapped market for "good" Chinese food in locations where the % of Chinese is relatively lower...that is away from N. Scarborough, Markham and RH where the local restaurants are competing their brains out against each other and the target market is the ethnic Chinese. As the untapped market away from this area is primarily non-ethnic Chinese, the successful operations will tailor their offerings (food, decor, cleanliness, etc) to this market....thus the success of Spring Rolls, Spoon and Fork, and probably eventually PF Changs. Is it more difficult than that to understand?

                                        1. re: T Long

                                          Nope. I would just add that true food snobs make up a very tiny percentage of restaurant eaters overall. So most don't even see a problem here.

                                          1. re: justsayn

                                            I totally agree with this statement. It isn't hard to understand or find a hound who is blown away by what restaurants get away with serving in this town and how many restaurants that have no real passion for food fill the restaurant every night.

                                            1. re: justsayn

                                              Yup. Chowhounds overestimate their influence on the average suburban mall.

                                              1. re: justsayn

                                                Remember, we're kinda like a 1%. My SO, with whom I've been with forever, still doesn't get how I like to photograph the plate or bowl in front of me -- in a food court, on the street or at a Big Occasion outing.

                                            2. re: Michael N

                                              "if you take pretty much any American casual dining chain and compare it to its Canadian equivalent, the American one will inevitably come out ahead"

                                              Exactly. This was discussed at length here: