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P.F. Chang's (Westbury NY)
||1504 Old Country Road,|
Westbury, NY 11590
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Spring Volume: 2000 Issue: 7(1) page: 23
P.F. Chang's China Bistro, the formal name, is a chain of inexpensive Chinese restaurants that began about eight years ago in Scottsdale, Arizona. They are springing up like weeds all over the country. They were owned and initially operated by Paul Fleming, an attorney using his long-time friend Philip Chiang and Chinese food expert. If the Chiang name sounds a little familiar, you may know his mother, Cecilia Chiang, who is a well-known west coast restauranteur who introduced many to foods of provinces other than Guangzhou, or what was once called Canton.
Fleming and partners Rick Federico, Bert Vivian, and Greg Carey, all professionals, have lofty goals that this restaurant should be known and located world-wide. They raised five million dollars to do so and are on the way; but will they get there? While going great guns, they have garnered some fine kudos; one such in Nation's Restaurant News called it a 'Hot Concept Winner.'
When we went to press this Bistro restaurant concept already had multiplied like rabbits. There were seven in California, three in Arizona, three in Florida, one in Massachusetts, one in New York, one in Michigan, four in Texas, two in Georgia, and about a dozen others open or ready to open in the almost dozen other states not mentioned. To check for addresses and telephone numbers of one nearest you, get to the web and type in: www.pfchang.com/location/
You will find them here. This review, published in the seventh year of Flavor and Fortune was found in the article in this issue titled: Restaurant Review: A Bistro.
The chain buys in bulk, keeps profits under strict control, offers a sit-down 90's fusion expanded fast-food fried-cookery concept in and out of the Chinese mainstream. The concept at this Chang's does not compete with authentic Chinese restaurants. But it does offer what Americans think that snazzy Chinese food should look and taste like, and the kind of atmosphere they wished more Chinese restaurants emulated.
The menu welcomes and advises that "P.F. Chang's believes that variety is the keystone of a great meal. Our menu offers culinary creations from the major regions of China: Canton, Shanghai, Szechuan, Hunan, Mongolia, as well as our unique specialities, which draw on a multitude of traditions to create a unique dining adventure." Unique it truly is, with hyped menu, huge bar area, and all.
To service those stopping in to grab a drink with a bite and not having dinner, the menu offers eleven appetizers. It also touts two soups, six salads, a dozen dishes 'Chang Recommends,' fourteen meat, chicken and seafood dishes, seven noodle and seven rice dishes, and the same number of vegetable plates. There is also a six item very western dessert menu complete with four coffee choices.
On the web, Chang's advises their menu has a unique combination of traditional Chinese cuisine and American hospitality in a contemporary bistro setting. Clearly, there are discrepancies. Ahi Tuna salad is not traditional Chinese cuisine. Nor is Hyme Vasques, one local operating partner, offering American hospitality; he ignores all patrons.
Our experiences at P.F Chang's Bistro offer discrepancies, too. One grandson adores the place and wants to go often, the others prefer Chinatown. One of the latter group advised loudly to all who will listen, "Our American grandmother cooks better Chinese food than this long bean dish."
Ups and downs have to do with non-Chinese music and the almost Chinese food. We ask that the former be turned down as no one can hear himself speak, so the owner turns it up. He is angry when we repeat this request. These ups and downs are also related to the Hot and Sour Soup and the Wonton Soup. Both are thin, the former loaded with too much vinegar, the latter with an excellent wonton floating therein.
Better known as on's and off's, these ups and downs are found with lots of Szechuan Long Beans falling off their tiny platter. They are overcooked but loaded with preserved vegetable. The Dan Dan Noodles are equally overflowing, but did some one take off the chicken, scallions, cucumbers, or bean sprouts that the menu said are with these excellent egg noodles swimming in a pasty sauce?
The staff is almost all non-Chinese, but for one chef who rarely makes it to a wok. Maybe if he were on line more often, the VIP Cantonese Duck might have arrived with soft pancakes that did not crack when rolled. Maybe the Dan Dan Noodles would have come with items advertised, more flavor, too.
The newspaper, Cranes Business, reviews the concept and the Westbury restaurant of this chain, so we do. Their review is in their June 14th, 1999 issue; it garners P.F. two of their top four stars. One of these might belong to the conviviality possible at the bar. Not sure, as we saw no one but the manager sitting there on two occasions, three lonely folk at a third, and two at a fourth. All are lost at this thirty or so seat monster, this lovely unused facility taking up about one-quarter of the restaurant's expensive rental space.
That first Sunday, and on three subsequent occasions, most of the tables match empty bar stools. A Boston colleague advises similar scenarios but a hopping bar at lunchtime and some Saturday nights. One grandson who lives in that city likes that emptyness because he can always count on getting a table there.
Most P.F. Chang China Bistro beauties; and that is their complete and correct name, are in downtown high rent areas. That they maintain their inexpensive prices may be a miracle of small portions piled high on small plates. This conscious effort to reduce oversized waistlines and high levels of cholesterol and hypertension is hindered and helped. Some dishes provide low-salt and under-seasoning, others are loaded with deep-fried foods such as in the Mongolian Beef. Ignore the fried foods and order Poached Baby Bok Choy, an order of steamed Buddha's Feast, or Sweet and Sour Pork with pineapple.