Brian's Blogs

Restaurant Review - PF Chan's

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Brian Salter hobnobs with some terracotta warriors in his search for a new gastronomic experience….

If proof were ever needed that the economic crisis is receding quickly into recent history, one need only witness the amount of overseas restaurant chains heading towards the UAE to set up operations and take advantage of the burgeoning market for eating out.

Latest in the long line of recent arrivals is P. F. Chang's China Bistro which has just opened its doors in Mirdif City Centre. Avid fans of the animated sitcom SouthPark will recognise the name – testimony to the fact that its creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone frequently dine there.

The American chain, whose headquarters are in Phoenix, Arizona, was founded in 1993 and now operates more than 200 restaurants in the United States, Mexico City, and Kuwait City, with this Dubai outlet its second venture into the Middle East.

Their marketing blurb says it all, however: “… offering an authentic American experience with a blend of outstanding Chinese cuisine”.  Upscale their food may well be, but one would be hard pressed to describe it as authentic Chinese cooking. But don’t let that put you off for one moment.

They say that first impressions count, and as you enter the bistro you can tell that a great deal of thought has gone into the décor, that includes Chinese-looking lanterns, life-size replicas of the terra cotta Xi’an warriors and narrative murals depicting scenes of life in ancient China.

The staff all appear eager to please, and we are positively whisked to a waiting table by smiling waiters who spend ages explaining the many and varied culinary creations on offer. My companion and I are warned before venturing through the menu on our own that the portions served are gargantuan – a fact that we verify a little later on when wondering how much we can actually eat our way through.

The menu itself features traditional Chinese-sounding offerings, albeit prepared for an American palate. We decide to start with pan fried chicken dumplings – a good choice as it turns out. While we wait for them to be served, our waiter enquires whether we like hot and spicy, sour or sweet condiments as he lays down a selection on our table. We both enjoy spicy food, at which point he starts vigorously mixing a sauce from the condiments in front of us.

Is it just me, or is anyone else upset that the waiter proceeds to make his mish-mash blend with a scoop of this and a dollop of that? Personally If I want to mix up the sauces, I would rather do it myself. In the event, both my companion and I eschew his concoction and go back to the original ingredients to blend our own. Perhaps they should ask before they start dumping everything together! Mind you, it should be added that they do it with such panache and with such a friendly smile that one cannot possibly complain!

Next to appear is a selection of plates featuring ginger chicken served Cantonese-style on a bed of fresh steamed broccoli; lemon pepper shrimps, tossed in a tangy sauce and served on a bed of leeks and bean sprouts; egg noodles tossed with garlic and chilli peppers; and a bowl each of rice. It is at this point that the warnings of “gargantuan” come to mind and we are pleased that we avoided the temptation of some of the other offerings such as richly spiced marinated lamb, wok-caramelised and tossed with cumin, mint, tomatoes and yellow onions; or Sichuan-style beef tossed with chillies and fresh orange peel.

One problem with doling out such generous portions is that the food is in danger of turning cold before one has a chance to munch one’s way through it all. If the bistro were to serve it out on hot plates, this would certainly have helped; but by the time we were only half way through, my companion and I were eating quite tepid food.

Unlike what is on offer in P.F.Chang’s American outlets, this Dubai restaurant avoids serving any alcoholic beverages and the alcohol-free beers on offer do poor justice to the well cooked cuisine. My companion, however, enjoys a home-made lemonade concoction from what unfortunately can only be described as a poor selection of drinks.

But that said, the overall experience of dining at P. F. Chang's China Bistro is highly enjoyable and there were certainly no unhappy faces in the packed out bistro!

What we liked: well cooked food; gargantuan portions; décor; happy smiling staff
What we disliked: cold plates; poor drinks menu
Price for two people: Dhs200 approx

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