PF Chang's

So, yesterday was Administrative Assistant's Day or something like that. We overlords at the office failed to plan for it, and so at the last minute El Jefe put out an e-mail saying that we'd be celebrating today (in lieu of bringing in kids for that special day), provided that we could all agree on a place to eat.

Normally, I love these announcements. I used to work in the public sector, so "free food" meant cookies and bad coffee at a public meeting. I moved to my new employer last fall, and since have had some very nice lunches. And when it's time to have another, I usually jump to the challenge of organizing it, because then I can usually weasle us into someplace new that I'd like to eat for free.

But, in recognition of the fact that the day is for support staff and not the supported, I put out an e-mail asking for suggestions. The first one was Sungari, which we haven't gone to yet, so I was secretly pleased at the initial wave of favorable replies. Then someone threw out PF Chang's. Been there, done that, and not impressed. Someone else threw out Henry's, another place we've been to, and then, somehow, the next 30 minutes turned into an e-mail taunting session aimed at hurting Gastro Boy's feelings (because he works with me) and putting down the PF Chang's contingent (largely, I must confess, out of my chagrin towards Vancouverites, as one had hopped squarely onto the Chang's Bus). I also tried to steer people toward The Hunan, which is one of my top two or three destination Asian joints, but I'd burned my capital in my bid to put down the PF Chang's offensive.

Eventually I created a voting system wherein staff members' votes would count double those of we, the oppressive overlords, and demanded that people weigh in. Pleasantly, Sungari won, with PF Chang's a close second and Henry's a distant third. Hunan wasn't even on the list. Gastro Boy made sure to note along the way that "PF Chang's is Asian like The Olive Garden is Italian," which qualified as the best one-liner I heard yesterday. Either that's saying alot for him, or it's a sad testament to my life.

I attempted the Sungari reservation, only to find out that they couldn't accomodate a group of our size on such short notice. So I grudgingly called PFC, and then loathingly accepted their cheerful and unflinching invitation to seat our full group at our desired time. Curses.

And so, today, we went to PF Chang's. PF Chang's, for those who haven't been there, is an upscale pseudo-Chinese-food franchise which is pretty big among the hipster set. As Gastro Boy was mumbling this morning, as we discussed our lunch sentiments, the young, rich and attractive that make places like these successful don't necessarily realize the difference between good and bad food. Or, more succinctly put (in what I suspect will be the best one liner I hear today), "places like that are good for only one thing: having a couple of cocktails and a Poo Poo Platter before you go a-whoring around downtown."

The restaurant is clean, dimly lit, roomy, and almost sterile in the sense that it lacks any real character whatsoever.

The food is generally solidly okay, never really impressive, and the portions never seem to align with the prices.

All that said, I really enjoyed it today.

We started out with some appetizers for our group: Crab Won-Tons, Salt-and-Pepper Calamari, and Spring Rolls. These were all non-spectacular. We followed up with soup, Won-Ton (which wasn't good at all) and Hot-and-Sour (which was overly thick, seemed fake, and asn't all that impressive in either hotness or sourness).

For lunch, I diverged from the normal Kung Pao tendency I tend to display and instead had "Tam's Noodles with Savory Beef and Shrimp." It's described on the menu thusly: "A unique gnocchi-like noodle stir-fried with sliced beef, shrimp and chili peppers in a subtle abalone sauce."

It looked like this:

(Well, there are a couple of Kung Pao Shrimp there that I stole from a co-worker).

The round, flat bits are the noodles. Altogether, it was very tasty. Spicy throughout, with nicely-cooked beef that was soft-but-not-limp and shrimp that were just plain yummy. And it was surprisingly filling; half of it made it back to the office for lunch tomorrow.

I sampled a couple of other people's dishes, and they were average-to-above-average. Better than some "authentic" Chinese places in town, but not as good as you can get at a non-franchised actual local Chinese joint.

The service was very good today. Normally it's adequate, but I was pretty happy with our waiter today.

For 11 people, with included gratuity, the meal came out to about $215. Not bad, but not terrific.

So, I expected to go to PF Chang's and be underwhelmed. I walked out with a full stomach born of good food. The company may have been a part of it (I have to say that sort of thing, I suppose), but the food absolutely did not disappoint.

1 comment:

Renata said...

I actually ate at Sungari on April 26, 2007 for lunch and it was my first time there. We tried seven different dishes between four of us (work lunch!) and they were all pretty tasty. I really liked the Mongolian beef and Kung Pao Chicken. I took some leftovers home to my husband and he thought it was pretty good, but thinks he may like PF Changs better. We ate there for the first time last week at Bridgeport. Okay experience, but I agree that the portions don't always seem to align with the prices. The quality is good though. I really liked their Chicken Lettuce Wraps. He will have to try Sungari fresh and we will have to go back to PFC to determine what is better! :)