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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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30 Restaurants in 30 Days: P. F. Chang’s China Bistro

Shake, rattle and roll: Shaking beef at P. F. Chang's China Bistro

Shake, rattle and roll: Shaking beef at P. F. Chang's China Bistro

The first Atlanta-area branch of Phoenix-based  P. F. Chang’s China Bistro opened in Dunwoody in 1998. Now there are four scattered throughout the northern suburbs and a fifth headed for…

Who know the answer?

Yes, Concourse A of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Flight delay? Get your lettuce wrap on.

The imminent airport opening provided an impetus to check in on the original local link in the chain, which I haven’t returned to since I reviewed it lo these many years. At that time, I admired the lodge-like dining room, with its stacked-stone walls and slate floors, but made predictable grumblings about the crowd-pleasing Chinese-American fare. “If you like deep-fried nuggets drenched in sweet sauce, you’re in luck,” I wrote in full snark dudgeon.

After 14 years, the dining room has held up. The high ceiling and deep booths show off the craftsmanship of the design. I’m not surprised that the restaurant still runs a wait at lunch.

Stir-fried quinoa with a fried egg

Stir-fried quinoa with a fried egg

The menu looks much how I remember it, with the welcome addition of gluten-free and lighter summer dishes. The red quinoa stir-fry (above) at first seems only the sum of its parts: unseasoned grain with crisp vegetable bits, a fried egg and a few kaiware sprouts. It tastes like a Whole Foods shopping list.

IMG_8069But spoon on a little of this here Chang juice (a soy, mustard, chile concoction), and ….

Say!

I like quinoa eggs from Chang!

I do! I like them, Chang-I-am!

And I would eat them in a boat.

And I would eat them with a goat…

And, hey! I’m digging that shaking beef (above), which is nothing at all like Vietnamese shaking beef but a stir-fry of beef, potato and broccolini. I admire the respectful pitch of the sauce — sweet, yes, but with enough salty soy and umami oomph to carry the day. My only peeve: the unfortunate bed of fast-wilting salad greens. (Chang: try romaine.)

IMG_8077We didn’t care for either of our appetizers. These duck summer rolls don’t have any of the taut, sticky textural appeal you demand from fresh rice-paper wrap. They flop and fall apart, revealing mealy slivers of duck. Wan, wiggly strips of salt-and-pepper calamari tasted more of unclean oil than anything from the sea.

But I do so like our entrees — enough that I look forward to exploring further. Thanks bunches, Chang-I-am. Good lunch.

- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

34 comments Add your comment

Edward

August 16th, 2013
12:33 pm

To me, the offerings from Panda Express beat those from P. F. Chang’s. And I would only eat at Panda Express when it is necessary (like in an airport).

Helen

August 16th, 2013
12:36 pm

I thought the last dish I had at P.F. Chang’s had too much sodium.

just me

August 16th, 2013
1:31 pm

This is a place we go to every year or two that allows me the ambiance to feel like an adult, yet has a menu that doesn’t freak out my husband. Good food, good environment, lunch menu (lunch prices!). We like it.

[...] 30 Restaurants in 30 Days: P. F. Chang’s China Bistro [...]

slim with the tilted brim

August 16th, 2013
2:16 pm

P.F. Chang = MSG so not for mes

EDGEWOOD

August 16th, 2013
2:17 pm

I can sort of understand the need to eat at a Golden Corral or something like that. But PF Chang’s is just lazy. There are so many delicious and cheaper Chinese options in the burbs. Ethnic food dining is the one thing the burbs have on the City. Eating some place like this is just pathetic.

GaPeachy

August 16th, 2013
3:22 pm

I only visit once or twice a year and although the menu prices do seem high for Chinese, the portions are large. My husband and I always split one entrée and one order of beef fried rice so not as bad on the wallet as you would think. The Orange Peel Shrimp is my favorite. They also have a plum sauce they serve with their crab wonton appetizer that is really yummy.

Baltisraul......

August 16th, 2013
3:43 pm

Slim…..Accent has a 1/3 less sodium content and if it does not give you a head throb, not to worry. MSG is natural flavor enhancer and not harmful. We have all heard that MSG is bad for you for years, so now we accept it as gospel.

Lorenzo

August 16th, 2013
3:44 pm

What is this “30 Restaurants in 30 Days” series about? You used to write serious reviews for the kinds of restaurants for which people look to reviews. Did I miss something? Is this sort of a summer vacation from reviewing?

Daisy

August 16th, 2013
4:02 pm

Do I want reviews of only chain restaurants in the AJC, no. But a few every once in a while are actually helpful, for those times I get invited out with a group that is going to pick a chain no matter what. Based on this review, I know a couple of dishes to order that sound pretty good. P.F. Chang’s is also one of the few Chinese restaurants that offers gluten free, and (in my experience) takes it seriously. So, I am glad to hear they will be opening at the airport, which has minimal gluten free choices. So, thanks for the review, I got some good information out of it.

John Kessler

August 16th, 2013
4:05 pm

Lorenzo – What Daisy said. :)

Kar

August 16th, 2013
5:14 pm

I gotta agree with Daisy. Whether or not they’re your first personal choice, there are francheses out that and if you’re with friends who want the familiar or you want the familiar that won’t wreck havoc on your system, these are real options.

John, I challenge next after the franchise week to go seriousy hole-in-the-wall or even better, a food-court crawl. Heck, I might join you for a taco/pambazo crawl at Fiesta Plaza.

Mister Man

August 16th, 2013
10:48 pm

Some people need to get over themselves…

It says P.F.Chang’s right there in the title! Don’t read it if you’re so offended!

Mark

August 17th, 2013
12:50 pm

I’ve stopped going to conventional “Chinese” restaurants – chain or not.

I live near the Golden Buddha in Decatur, and my friends swear by this restaurant. The last time I went, I wanted a nice piece of fish, so I ordered their “whole fish”. Not cheap.

Yes,the poor fish came out with eyes, fins, and tails intact, but had been stripped of everything else.

There were only fried bits of an artistic attempt to look “beautiful” but after its “styling”, there was nothing left to eat.

Therefore, I consider most Chinese food – chain or not – Candy Food.

The kind folk that run these restaurants do not eat what they serve their customers. They’re into serving what they think Americans want to eat. Stop by at your favorite sit-down Chinese restaurant a little before closing time and you will see what the owners and staff eat on a daily basis.

They eat simply – and much healthier. Order what *they* eat and you’ll be better off.

Lorenzo

August 17th, 2013
5:05 pm

John (and Daisy), I wasn’t referring specifically to the fact that this series reviews a number of chains. A review of the likes of Golden Corral, Red Lobster or PF Chang once in a blue moon could be entertaining. I meant my comment more generally. I’ve been reading Food and More for years, and I used to enjoy your reviews very much. It seems to me the AJC has lost its way as far as restaurant reviews.

Ann

August 18th, 2013
11:46 am

@ Baltisraul – Calling a highly processed food natural is a bit of a stretch. MSG is a form of concentrated salt that is processed and added to foods to enhance the flavor. Most MSG now comes fermented sugar beets. MSG is cheap. They can use lower quality foods and just add the MSG to create more flavor.

Monsanto controls more than 90% of the sugar beet industry, so you’re getting some of that Roundup pesticide with your MSG. Some people do have allergic type responses to MSG. It can result in . But, for me, just give me real quality food, with real natural flavors any day over the added salt and MSG used to create the flavor.

I used to like the Paul’s shrimp dish PF Chang’s had on the menu up until a few years ago. We also liked the chicken with bean sauce, although it’s a bit boring. We initially tried Chang’s because of the brown rice option there, but you can now find that at other places. Generally, though, we have found the stir fry dishes to be way too salty, greasy and too saucy. We haven’t been in over a year.

Art

August 18th, 2013
12:03 pm

I think the restaurant chains prove that people like predictable food at predictable prices even if it’s not necessarily the “best in show”. Remember when they’re visiting these places they’re usually stepping up from Mickey D’s or Hamburger Helper Skillet dishes at home. I’m not maligning any of the above as I enjoy a taste of all “walks of food” from time-to-time as well. None of us can discount the fact that all of the chains that Dr. Seuss, err I mean John, visited this week are financially viable and usually are packed; that can’t be said about a lot of independently-owned local restaurants. Most of the masses are risk adverse when it comes to trying places that they haven’t heard about on TV; they simply don’t have the taste buds or money to risk.

As for the AJC reviews, I think they are better than ever and… we get to read more of them thanks to the contributions of John, Jenny and Jon.

Baltisraul......

August 18th, 2013
4:42 pm

Ann …Of course we would all like to have natural good tasting food that needed no spices or flavoring added to them. But a little accent added to your menu to cut down on your salt intake is not the devils work. It is just not the destructive product that people have made it out to be. All things in moderation is a good way to look at your diet. MSG is no more dangerous that salt, maybe less if you can tolerate the product. If you can’t, don’t buy it.

Jimmy

August 19th, 2013
6:11 am

Lorenzo is 100% correct. John and Daisy and the other guy are fighting a losing battle here. In fact, they’ve already lost.

Marsh

August 19th, 2013
10:13 am

Much like the “gluten sensitive,” the people that bawl about MSG just want to hop on a narcisstic bandwagon. To quote and article about it, “.. mushrooms, tomatoes, inosinate, guanylate, and autolyzed yeast extract? Give up? They are all sources of monosodium glutamate. So don’t bother telling me you’re allergic to MSG if you eat pizza.”

Amen.

Lizzy

August 19th, 2013
11:14 am

as always, the usual suspects have to focus on off-subject issues in the unnecessary tirade like format. this is a restaurant review and blog not an opportunity for rants.
JK, enjoyed your review, as always, especially the humorous editorializing! Asian food is something I will have a keen craving for since it’s a departure, for me, from the usual fare…..it’s like any cuisine from another culture – we manage to make it heavy and fattening!

WAR EAGLE

August 19th, 2013
12:41 pm

For Gluten Free Pizza- Maddio’s.
For Gluten Free Hotdogs- NATHAN’s!

WAR EAGLE

August 19th, 2013
12:44 pm

Bubba J’s Get down and Boogie Bar!

berry steve

August 19th, 2013
1:19 pm

Sorry Lizzy, but this is America and these guys make solid points. I didn’t read any ranting. Just honest opinions.

Ann

August 20th, 2013
12:18 am

@ Marsh – Are you really saying that a “processed” food additive is the same as an actual tomato or mushroom?

Ann

August 20th, 2013
12:34 am

@ Baltisraul…… – Even when MSG is used at Chinese restaurants as a flavor enhancer, I think you will find that the sodium content is still “off the roof” high for most entrees.

Baltisraul......

August 20th, 2013
7:19 am

Ann…..you may be correct on the Chinese restaurants. My point is to use MSG instead of salt. That’s what we do at home. About the only time we use salt at home is w/ fried fish or chicken and then we use powdered salt because it sticks better to the fried food.

Lizzy

August 20th, 2013
8:00 am

BS – to quote Marsh: “the people that bawl about MSG just want to hop on a narcisstic bandwagon” – the wording sounds like a personal attack and pretty far off subject of JK’s review of Chinese cuisine. Yes, it’s America and I’m as proud to be one as you are…personal attacks are juvenile and offensive.

berry steve

August 20th, 2013
9:08 am

Lizzy- if you think Marsh’s quote is a personal attack, your skin is a little thin. He may have been raising his voice while typing but not my definition of attack. Chill a little and try to understand everyone opinion. I still believe they are solid opinions and worth reading.

Marsh

August 20th, 2013
12:05 pm

You’d think such a big Monsanto expert would know that glutamates appear naturally in many vegetaables including tomatoes, as well as cheese, and yeast extract. Eat pizza? Then you aren’t allergic.

The burning desire to be a victim astounds. See also: juming on the bandwagon.

I never eat Chinese food in restaurants any more. Don’t you read these restaurant ratings? Yikes. MSG is the LEAST of your worries.

Ann

August 21st, 2013
6:48 pm

@ Marsh – I did already know that it occurs naturally in food. I didn’t make any comments indicating otherwise. My point was simply that a processed food is not the same as a whole vegetable or fruit. Glutamate occurs naturally. MSG is the “sodium salt” of glutamic acid.

You keep repeating that if you eat pizza, you aren’t allergic. It is “irrelevant” whether MSG is allergic or not. You can be sensitive to a food item and have symptoms without it being classified as an allergen – such as “onions” that cause heartburn, as one example. People have indigestion, heartburn, headaches, stomach discomfort, etc. after eating certain ingredients or foods. These are not necessarily allergens. Each person is different in regards to what foods and ingredients they can tolerate well. It bothers some people and others it doesn’t. Personally, I do not have any noticeable reaction to MSG.

Are there any foods that bother you or that you avoid? How does that make one a victim? I have an allergy to chocolate and bananas, documented through allergy tests; but, I certainly don’t consider myself a victim.

Lizzy

August 22nd, 2013
8:18 am

Ann, your explanation is spot on and if Marsh or the other narrow minded, pugilistic bloggers are still readhing this, it will not register in their one-track thought processes – logic is out the window for certain humanoids. I didn’t bother to reply to the zinger about my being think skinned when I responded that calling someone narcisstic isn’t offensive – you can’t argue with stupid. Is this gender related? I sincerely want to believe it’s not – hard to reconcile after reading the surly comments from the male sounding names…..

Baltisraul......

August 22nd, 2013
9:46 am

Lizzy….yes this is gender related and it is your gender, I do believe.

jm

August 22nd, 2013
1:13 pm

Jeez. Get a life y’all.