I must admit, the first time I went to P.F Chang’s as a kid, I was put off. I mistakenly expected dishes similar to a Chinese restaurant my family frequented on Sundays in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. When my plate of steamed fish and lackluster snow peas arrived, I picked at it gingerly and vowed to never come back again.
Of course, looking back, that was silly of me to think that. When dining at mega-chain restaurants like P.F Chang’s, it’s crucial to remember that this is not “authentic” anything. Although, some argue the word, in itself, is misleading, as authenticity in the realm of food is subjective to one’s personal memories and opinion. That being said, if authentic to you means a steaming pot of shumai or chicken feet dripping in sauce, this isn’t your joint. If however, authentic means chicken doused in a glaze of sweet and sour mix and paired with “kimchi slaw,” then honey, you’re at the right place.
Other than branding themselves as a “China Bistro,” P.F Chang’s makes it clear that their cuisine combines “influences of Chinese and American cultures.” Yes, this means fusion food made to be accessible to the American palate.
When our crew headed over to P.F Chang’s location next to Disneyland in Anaheim, California a few weeks ago, my ten-year-old self had obviously been proven wrong. At the entrance, we were greeted by their familiar 11ft statue of a horse guarding the door at many of their locations. This particular venue was incredibly spacious, with a hefty amount of sleek seating. We sat next to a window overlooking the patio and kicked lunch off with a round of drinks before we dived into their summer menu.
Long Island Tequila Tea and Long Island Rum Tea
While the Long Island Tequila Tea was excellent, you could still taste the tequila through the addicting sour flavor, the Rum Tea was a bit too sweet for our liking. We should have guessed as much, seeing as it came topped with a pink maraschino cherry.
Peking Duck Summer Rolls
The duck wasn’t as savory as it could have been, being absent of that signature gamey, earthy aroma. Again, I knew where I was at, but when you’re soaking a dish in soy sauce to make up for lack of flavor, that’s never a good thing.
Heirloom Tomato & Thai Basil Salad
Packed with a generous amount of chopped avocado (plus!) and made with noticeably fresh heirloom tomatoes, this salad was both hearty and refreshing. The addition of Thai basil and ponzu dressing added that “zesty” kick needed to take it up a notch.
Korean BBQ Chicken Stir-Fry
This one was a bit too decked out in sweet and spicy chili sauce, reminding me of a strange combination of Panda Express’ Kung Pao and Mandarin Chicken dishes. I should note that everyone else at the table thought this was one of the best dishes we tried, so I’m probably being infuriatingly picky right now.
Grilled Prawns with Chilled Peanut Noodle Salad
The prawns were cooked to perfection and were plump, none of that “petite” seafood nonsense here. The noodles, however, remained untouched.
Summer Vegetable Quinoa “Fried Rice”
If you get anything at P.F Chang’s this summer, get this. Their toasted quinoa dish mixed with mango, squash, snow peas, and tomatoes is an exemplary example of fusion done right. And that egg. Sunny-side up and only slightly cooked; when poked, it oozed into every bit of the dish, melting all the flavors together with its yolky flavor. Needless to say, we scraped this plate clean.