Monday, May 28, 2007

The Mainland's Take on Chinese Food

I had read a poor review in a newspaper (I don't remember which one) about P.F. Changs shortly after it had opened, and it lead me to a good point. Why go to a mainland-owned Chinese chain restaurant when we are much closer to China and have great authentic local Chinese cuisine? But my co-workers (both originally from the mainland) wouldn't stop raving about how much they loved the P.F. Changs on the mainland and how they were glad it finally took up shop here in Hawaii. On top of that, one of them gave me a gift card to the restaurant for my birthday. I had no plans to go this restaurant until I was given the opportunity to decide for myself which hype to believe.

(Sorry for the pictures, I wasn't prepared and only had my camera phone on me-I will put in more photos from elsewhere)
If nothing else, the inside of the restaurant is beautiful. The color scheme is great, done in bright and warm hues that match with the golden light coming from Asian lanterns. Separating the bar area from the rest of the restaurant are large blown glass figures strung on poles that look to me like giant vertical beaded necklaces. We sat as far away from the entrance and outdoor dining area as possible in a booth.

(From the Honolulu Advertiser)
Our waiter was pleasant enough, though nothing to rave about, and we decided on an appetizer to split while we sipped on a Reisling (Randy's choice) and Gewurtstraminer (my choice). The wines were great and went well with our appetizer choice, Seared Ahi Tuna. The description the menu gave was that the tuna was rolled in Chinese spices, wok seared, and served cold with spicy mustard. This was the best dish by far, and the tuna was cooked great leaving the inside with a nice sashimi texture, though it may have worked better if they were warm instead. The generous drizzling of the mustard could have been lighter, but the flavors went well together and were balanced nicely with the sweet wines we had ordered. It came with a little sprout salad which Randy didn't care for, and I felt indifferent about.

(Seared ahi)
I should stop here and make a point about the bugs. As soon as our dishes were placed in front of us, the bugs came. I did happen to mention that we were as far away from the open seating as possible in the restaurant, but the bugs came anyway. They were irritating little flying things, sort of like fruit flies, that would buzz around our plates and faces. I found this very unfavorable as I have eaten in countless restaurants both indoor and outdoor and have not had this problem (maybe a few normal flies, but only when I was truly outdoors). We told the waiter and he asked us if we would like to move, but where would we have gone? Closer to the outdoors and the flies? He mentioned it might be because of the trash they put out and it left me thinking that they should keep better control of their trash so as not to bother diners.

For and entree we shared the Cantonese Roasted Duck (something that I had been wanting to have-Duck with plum sauce, but was having a hard time finding it on local Chinese menus). The duck was served with steamed wheat buns, cucumbers, scallions, plum and hoisin sauces. The buns were good, and the duck had an alright flavor, but was too try for my personal liking. The cucumbers and scallions were good garnishes, but the sauces weren't to my liking. I had tried plum sauce at The Elks Club before, and liked it much better. This version didn't have the sweetness I so enjoyed from plum sauce.

We got a vegetable to accompany this main dish and decided on Coconut Curry Vegetables. The dish was a mixed vegetable dish that was stir fried with tofu and peanuts in a coconut curry sauce. To me this dish tasted more Thai then Chinese, because of the peanuts and curry. Though it was pretty good, the coconut flavor didn't really come out and this was a dish that we couldn't eat too much of because the flavor got tiring (do you know what I mean?). We had to take it home and I ate it the next day.

(from Waikikinews website)
I think what I enjoyed most about the restaurant was the large Chinese stylized horse statue out front- that is to say I probably won't be returning. I am grateful for the giftcard and chance that I had to try this restaurant out, but even with the card, we paid a steep bill for the mediocre meal we had. My friend has dined twice there and said though the first time was below average, the second was great and changed her opinion about the place. Too bad for me there won't be a second time. This just goes to show that my reviews are my personal opinion and you never know how things are gonna go until you try it yourself! With that said, I think the flies should have helped with the bill because they enjoyed it more than us.


Cheryl said...

I actually just ate at PF's on Saturday. We really like it, but then we don't have all the other great places around us like you have. I would rather go to them then too.

KirkK said...

Hi Anuhea - I've enjoyed reading your posts the last few months......but I gotta say PF Chang's is as much a Chinese Restaurant as "Paul Fleming" (hence, the 'PF') is Chinese.

Anuhea said...

Cheryl- I've heard a lot of people from the mainland say they love it. Maybe it's just the one here that's not so good.

Kirk- Thanks for stopping by, I love to hear that people actually read feels like I'm not talking to myself as much. And I now what you mean- I don't know why they claim to be Chinese...maybe more Asian fusion would be appropriate.

alan said...

I keep driving by PF Chang's, thinking I should try it some day. Like you said, mainland friends rave about the chain. So far though, I haven't been compelled to stop and try it. It sounds like I haven't missed much.

Abby said...

I've eaten there once ... years ago. I remember thinking it was good, but overpriced and I'd rather have take-out than assembly line. Make sense?

And as for the flies ... that would keep me from ever going back! Hate. Bugs.

Chubbypanda said...

Just linked over from a Passion for Food.

I agree with my good buddy, Kirk. PF Chang's is enough to make me cry tears of blood sometimes.

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