Yes, Daniel, it’s a chain. But it’s a non-local chain. Does that redeem the review even a little bit?
Ron and I spent Valentine’s weekend in Columbus, Ohio at Easton Town Center. We have built a lot of history at this place. I bought my first Brighton set at Easton. I bought my first pair of True Religion jeans at Nordstrom. Hope once ate a hot fudge sundae as big as her head at the Cheesecake Factory. We have spent hours playing skee ball at Gameworks. I fell in love with Two Three-Buck Chuck at Trader Joe’s. Most of Ron’s history at Easton, however, involves Adobe Gilas and their happy hour specials.
We enjoyed our first meal on a trip like this at Brio Tuscan Grille, a fine eatery. Fado’s Irish Pub was a great place to enjoy Guiness wings, a Smithwick’s and a Glenlivet. California Pizza Kitchen serves up a tasty pizza and the Cheesecake Factory is one of my favorite chains of all time. But on this special occasion, I wanted to try something new. Something Asian. PF Changs.
The interior of the restaurant is modern and stunning. Even the plates are super-attractive with their stark white finish and their rounded rectangular shapes. I knew I wanted three things in this meal: spicy, non-breaded chicken, and lots of veggies. I scoured the menu for a dish that would fit the bill while waiting on our table at the bar.
We were told it would be about an hour wait. I expected that. Realistically, we were in a highly populated area on a holiday. We enjoyed a couple beers and an appetizer of crispy green beans for $5.95. The green beans were lightly coated with a crispy tempura batter. I felt they were underseasoned and asked for a salt shaker which apparently does not exist at the bar, but our friendly bartender hooked me up with some kosher salt. Much better and yummy! It’s amazing how delicious a healthy veggie can become when breaded, fried and salted!
It was right at the hour mark when our doohickey lit up and began to vibrate, alerting us that our table was ready. When we snaked our way thru the people, carrying my purchases and two beers, we wished we had stayed at the bar. I swear, we had the absolute worst table in the joint. We were positioned at an oversized table-for-two directly behind the hostess station and directly in front of the restrooms. Being right behind the hostess station means that only three skinny young ladies separate your table from the cold air rushing in every time the doors open, which is continuous. Even Ron was cold, which is highly unusual.
Having ample opportunity during our wait at the bar to examine the unfamiliar menu, we ordered right away. I asked a few questions to determine my selection from the options that interested me.
Question#1: is the chicken in Chang’s Spicy Chicken breaded? The answer: yes, it’s lightly breaded.
Question #2: is the chicken in Kung Pao Chicken breaded? The answer: yes, it’s the same. It’s lightly breaded. (At this point I am thinking they only have one kind of chicken. You guessed it: lightly breaded.)
Question #3: what vegetables come with the Kung Pao Chicken? The answer: scallions. (I consider scallions more a spice than a vegetable, but…)
I think our server knew where I was going with this so to minimize her personal agony, she explained that I could add veggies to my order. For $1 each I could add asparagus (I immediately perked up – you KNOW I am ordering asparagus), broccoli, snow peas, and something I can’t remember. For free, I can ask for water chestnuts, mushrooms, green peppers, and there may have been a couple others. I usually quit listening when people start talking about horrid water chestnuts. Blheck.
Note to PF Changs: Put more detailed descriptions of your dishes in the menu. “Don’t eat the chili peppers” is not a description. Especially when your “version” of Kung Pao Chicken is so vastly different from that of every Chinese place I’ve ever patronized. I would have been completely disappointed if I had received a plate of chicken only. I am a confessed carnivore, but come on – balance is the key. Secondly, you need to let the customers know they can add the veggies, and that some are even FREE!
I ulitimately decided on the Chang’s Spicy Chicken (spicy being the winning element here), adding green pepper, broccoli, snow peas, and of course, asparagus. The total price for this culinary masterpiece was $12.95 plus two $1 add-ons, equals $14.95. They forgot to charge me for one of my veggies. I said nothing. You will understand how I justified this decision as you read further.
Our wait was a reasonable one. We had time for some lively conversation and one trip to the ladies’ room prior to the arrival of our entrees. (So that’s not saying much, since it was only a few steps away from my seat.) At some point during our wait, our server brought us a mysterious tray of sauces. I say mysterious, because she presented them in a sort of ceremonial manner, adding one spoonful of the chili oil into what appeared to be soy sauce, along with a spoonful of a light-colored thick sauce which remains unidentified. I felt as if I was expected to observe this procedure in silence. She explained nothing. I asked no questions, even though I wanted to.
My entree arrived on one of the super-attractive rectangular white plates. I told her they could hold the rice, but the kitchen sent it out anyway. Our server presented it to Ron along with his order of brown rice. I thought it was nice to offer brown rice in addition to the higher-glycemic white rice. Not that I was being nosy or anything, but I did notice that the woman seated next to me at the bar had a gluten-free menu. Also, nice. I wonder if they had a low-carb menu? I should have asked! Gluten-free’s date was trying to talk her into eating at the bar the same as Ron was trying to convince me. Don’t tell him he had a good idea.
Chang’s Spicy Chicken was only mildly spicy. Sure it would have lit Misty up like a Christmas tree, but not normal pepper-eating folk. I was not getting the adrenaline rush I craved from this dish. I decided to add some of the straight, suspected, chili oil from the tray of mystery sauces. No flavor at all. It was better without it. The chicken was indeed lightly breaded, tender, and there was plenty of it. I noted all the players on my plate, as requested. Broccoli: check. Green peppers, how I delight that you were free: check. Snow peas: check. Hello lover….asparagus: eeewwwww!!!!!!!! It was like trying to bite through a number 2 pencil. Woody and tough. I couldn’t eat it. I had one tip, which was fine, but the rest of the four or five 2″ sections were all but inedible. Ron agreed it was horrific. And he doesn’t snap off the woody ends whe we cook it at home. This is why I didn’t alert our server to the error on the bill. I shouldn’t pay for asparagus that crappy anyway.
I had plenty of food to fill me up, even without the rice. The sauce was entirely too sweet, however. I transferred all the food to another plate, attempting to leave as much sauce behind as I could. I purposefully chose a dish with the “spicy” symbol beside it. I can’t imagine how sweet the other sauces must be if mine made me fear a sugar-induced coma.
Bottom line: this was the most Americanized Chinese food I’ve ever tasted. It shouldn’t even pretend to be Chinese. Chinese restaurants should sue PF Changs for impersonation. A bad one. The Chinese people are likely embarrassed that their good culinary reputation has been associated with this farce. I am so over PF Changs, that we need a new word for “over”. What does the PF stand for? Phony Food? I’d believe it.
I have absolutely no desire to ever go back to a PF Changs, even if it is beautiful and reasonably priced. I think the main reason for this score is that my expectations were not met. I expected Chinese, I got…..something not Chinese. TWO FORKS.
Well once again I’m torn on how to review this place: PF Changs. Right now I have several thoughts floating in my head that do not coincide with each other. Thus this review will probably be full of conflicting statements all wrapped up in a ball of hypocrisy.
Where to start, once Susan mentioned what she wanted to eat for lunch and when she wanted to eat it, I began to have fits. Typically I like to eat late. It’s always been that way, from my days in college to when I began my career.. I typically do not like to eat dinner before 7 or 8 PM. Later if I could, and this causes my impending domestication fits (just to let you know, we’ve been doing pretty good at eating at 6:30PM).
So when Susan told me she wanted to eat at 2 my first response was “WHAT???” Yes it is Singles Awareness Day, so the places will be crowded but if I eat late I get to have a nice sit down dinner that is hearty, bold and filling. Then as my mind is reeling I hear “…F Changs”, and I think “Chang, that’s going to be Asian for sure”, and thus some over priced Asian joint that’s going to serve me food that I don’t really find all that great. So much for bold hearty and filling. Remembering the wise words of a recent comedian we saw “Happy Wife, Happy Life” I say “Sure Honey, that will be great”.
PF Changs is on the far end of the Easton Plaza from where we parked on the corner, and we walked right by Fado’s Irish Pub. which was where I wanted to go to. When we get to Chang’s, there are a few patrons waiting outside smoking, most huddled inside the whatever it’s called, the “Holding Tank”, you know that area between the two double doors. As Susan mentions we were told it would be an hour, so this place must be good as I can’t imagine anyone waiting an hour to eat Chinese. Plus I see several open spaces at the bar. No Problem.
The “Problem” arises upon the arrival of my first (and last) $4.50 16oz Samual Adams. Admittedly this isn’t an exhorbatent amount to pay as I’ve paid this before for cheaper beer, but I was either being danced to by a scantilly clad lady or watching Pat White make defending players look like clowns at a New Years Bowl Game. The price wasn’t so much problem as was the Cost/oz. X Consumption Rate X Duration of Wait = A lot Of Money that could be spent more wisely elsewhere (Gameworks for instance).
I notice that the place is actually very nice inside, and noticing a few other meals that pass by they look very filling and you get a lot of food. Prior to checking out the menu I’m thinking “glad this is coming out of the joint account“, but after reviewing the menu, the prices were not half bad. The majority of meals I think were less than or right around the $14.95 price point. So how bad can it be? I do like Asian, and even though it doesn’t blow my skirt, this may actually be pretty good.
While we wait, Susan orders an appetizer of – get this – GREEN BEANS. I recalculate the cost / oz. on beer and order a 20 oz. Sapporo as it was only pennies more on the oz. than a Bud Light and after calculating the lag time between purchasing and recieving, the Benefit /Cost Ratio was better with more quantity delivered fewer times.
The Sapporo arrives and so do the Green Beans, naturally they’re battered lightly in that unsalted batter that the Asian Folk call Tempura. Luckily it was served with, what tasted like, the same stuff that the Outback serves with their Bloomin’ Onion, making my crispy green beans tolerable. To be honest they were not bad, but it just doesn’t suit my palette.
Not long after that we are seated, and as Susan mentioned it was one of the best seats in the house. They were kind enough to seat us near the Wait Station, Restroom, and the Entrance. Their assumption was that these people needed to be served quickly, thus causing frequent runs to the restroom, and we will not want to navigate our way through several standing patrons while exiting.
This worked good except the wait staff began to fall behind. I ordered the Chicken Dali, or the Dali Chicken ($12.95), as it was advertised as their spiciest dish. Upon ordering the waitress even stressed that. I said that’s fine. I also wanted brown rice, not white, as I had previously overheard a wait person tell a patron they were out, my hostess says they are not, and thus causing my concern I warned her that if I get white rice I’m sending it back.
We wait, did I mention it’s nice inside?
The food eventually comes and I get a heaping plate of chicken, rice, these like potato chips – think thinly sliced fried potatoes – in my food. Looks good.
I dig in.. It tastes good and it is spicy. But…
Isn’t there always a “but” (and yes I realize I’m the Butt of this review), but it tasted like something I’d get at BW3. It was all buffalo flavoring. Do they eat that in Asia?
Hmmm the food was good, it wasn’t expensive, the service was decent, yet why am I so dissatisfied? Was I lead to believe the food would be great? I was definitely thinking it would be expensive. Shouldn’t all service be at least decent, wait.. shouldn’t all service be good? Or could it simply be that I was wanting Asian and I got The Cold Spot? Would I eat here again? Why wouldn’t I eat here again, it was cheap and I liked it? Oh like a woman picking out her shoes – I don’t know what to do.
If my review was based on price and quantity it’s at least a Three. (not counting beverage price – I subtract One Fork for beer prices that are competitve with strip clubs and ball parks) If it was based on expectations well then I’d give it a Two, as I’d heard a lot about this from Susan, and other places and by the looks I was really expecting my meal to be on the next level, yet I come away with thinking that maybe Taste Of Asia is better? Could it be? (Keep in mind by saying Taste of Asia is better than PF Changs, I’m not saying Taste Of Asia is better than Main Kwongs, nothing beats their L21)
I’m going to go with Two Forks. If the beer was $2 definitely Three. Or maybe if the place was called PF Chums (something to distract me from thinking Asian) I would probably give it a Three also.
But I have to go with Two Forks… if I go back I’ll order something different, I’ll get the Kung Pao and then I can compare Apples to Apples.
TWO FORKSPF Changs China Bistro Easton Town Center 4040 Townsfair Way Columbus, Ohio 43219 614-416-4100