My last time at a P.F. Chang’s was somewhat disappointing, though my friends tell me that it’s more about the ambiance than the food and that my take-out experience shouldn’t count. In honor of a coworker leaving the project and moving onto other things, we went to Columbia for a luncheon.
The lunch menu consists of several simple-to-make dishes served in a bowl atop a bed of white or brown rice. A choice of egg drop or hot and sour soup is included. For $8 to $10, it’s several dollars off the dinner menu and to be honest the portions were more than sufficient.
I ordered the Mongolian Beef with Broccoli Bowl. The beef was from a pretty lean cut and slightly crispy at the edges; this isn’t the mushy or stringy beef you get from most take-out joints. The tangy brown sauce was a tad heavy on soy sauce, but lighter than most brown sauces. I liked it. The broccoli was perfectly steamed; still crisp and not at all rubbery. The basic ingredients of Americanized Chinese cuisine are usually pretty healthy until gobs of sauce are applied. None of the meals I saw were drenched in sauce, which is good for taste and for health.
The hot and sour soup was good. Slightly thicker than vegetable stock, with a good portion of julienned carrots and tofu. It definitely warms you up a little.
I also got to try the infamous Chicken Lettuce Wraps. A half-head of iceberg lettuce is plated and served with a separate bowl of mixed chicken, corn, a different brown sauce, and chow mein noodles. The sauce was more salty than I was expecting, but suitable to whet your appetite. The make-your-own wraps is a cool idea too, making the shared appetizer a more personal/human experience than if the wraps were prepared in the kitchen.
Our server brought out a plate of lemon chicken for us to try (on the house). Served in a thick and tart lemon sauce, the chicken was extremely juicy and very much infused with lemon.
I think our server was having difficulties with the size of our group (just under 20) and could have benefited from a second server. He didn’t mix up the spices to our liking before we got started; from what I gather from other reviews and coworkers today, that’s a signature move for servers there. Several glasses came out unclean and had to be sent back and some of the silverware and sets of chopsticks could have used another round in the dishwasher. Our server also have the uncanny habit of bringing out different flavors of tea than the person had ordered.
Despite the slight problems with service, based on this visit I’d still give P.F. Chang’s China Bistro another go. The food was much better than my first time around and I do like the layout of the restaurant. Maybe for dinner, where I can take fully advantage of the atmosphere. They have a Spicy Chicken that I’m looking forward to trying and I’d definitely get another order of the Chicken Lettuce Wraps.