From Philip Chiang‚Äôs dynasty of restaurants, a new link in the chain is born! P.F. Chang‚Äôs Chinese Bistro brings you the true essence of Chinese dining – delicious yet simple meals consisting of only the finest ingredients. P.F. Chang's is one of Philip Chiang's few culinary endeavors, skyrocketing to food-fame because of Paul Fleming's (one of America‚Äôs top restaurateurs) undying support. With almost 200 branches spreading like wildfire across the United States, Chiang let his flames reach Mexico City, Mexico, opening the first P.F. Chang‚Äôs branch outside the USA. Not long afterwards, Chiang hit Kuwait, making waves in the Arabian Gulf with his fantastic Chinese cuisine.
Situated in a cozy corner between Phase I and Phase II of The Avenues, P.F. Chang‚Äôs signature terracotta horses boasted themselves for all to see. The warm red lighting gave a tranquil and romantic feel to the spacious restaurant, and the tables were aplenty! They had tables, booths, two large private dining rooms, and an outdoor seating area that gives a great view of The Avenues‚Äô landscaping and the 5th Ring Road. My friends and I were seated almost immediately by the √ºber-friendly staff, and were introduced to our waiter for the evening, Joseph Gomes.
Joseph is an all-star waiter; no joke. He was attentive, friendly, well-versed, and extremely patient with us as we pored over the menu for several minutes. He prepared a specialty potsticker sauce in front of us, using chili oil, vinegar, Chinese mustard, a sweet chili sauce, and soy sauce, for our dipping pleasure. It was by then that we decided Joseph should order for us, so we could get a taste of P.F. Chang‚Äôs greatest and most recommended dishes.
Out of the huge selection of drinks, we had a Rhubarb Spritzer, an Apple Glow, and a Pineapple Lemon Freeze. All three drinks were artfully presented, sweet, and refreshing. There were many other drinks that looked enticing, but we‚Äôll save those for another day and another time.
For our appetizers, Joseph did us a huge favor by bringing us the world-renowned Chicken Lettuce Wraps, and Crab Wontons.
The Chicken Lettuce Wraps sell themselves ‚Äì healthy, extremely moist, and insanely scrumptious. The dish was made up of a plate of the chicken and vegetable filling, and a plate of stacked lettuce leaves so crispy and vibrant green you‚Äôd think they‚Äôd just been plucked off the plantation. We tested our wrapping-and-rolling skills and dug in, hearing nothing but ‚Äúoooh‚Äù‚Äôs, ‚Äúaaah‚Äù‚Äôs, and the delightful crunch of the lettuce.
If bliss came in food form, the Crab Wontons would be it. The bite-sized parcels of wonton skins were filled with sumptuous crabmeat and fried a gorgeous golden-brown, and served with a zesty plum dipping sauce. The crunchy wonton skin gave way to the creamiest crabmeat filling I have ever experienced, and those two textures combined were out of this world. Nothing makes my heart sing more than a plate of wontons, and these crab wontons hit a home run.
Faster than you could say ‚ÄúKung-fu‚Äù, our main courses were served, and once again, Joseph had outdone himself with his choices. Two hearty dishes of Mongolian Beef and Kung Pao Shrimp graced our table, served with bowls of fluffy brown rice, and the oh-so-popular VIP Duck.
I am a huge fan of Chinese beef dishes, and unfortunately, the ones I‚Äôve come across in Kuwait were nothing but shards of Beef Jerky disguised in a murky brown sauce. P.F. Chang‚Äôs Mongolian Beef would have to be the complete opposite, placing itself in the number one spot. Served simply and elegantly with long green scallions and garlic, the cuts of caramelized beef stood out; no runny sauce, no questionable ingredients ‚Äì it was all there for you to see, and what a sight it was! Not only was the presentation fabulous, it was utterly divine. Juicy, sweet and savory, and light ‚Äì just what every Mongolian beef dish needs to be. Take notes, Little Dragon!
The piquant Kung Pao Shrimp was dressed up with scallions, chili peppers, and peanuts, which gave the dish a whole new dimension. The shrimp was perfectly battered and cooked, and smothered in a sauce that packed more punch than Everlast. The brown rice was an excellent complement to both dishes, seeing that it was airy and light, and didn‚Äôt outshine the flavors of either dish.
The VIP duck owned up to it‚Äôs name! The duck came to us carved and served with a stack of flatbread, chopped scallions, cucumbers topped with beautiful sesame vinaigrette, and of course, a deep brown sweet soy plum sauce. From my previous experiences with duck dishes in Kuwait, I was apprehensive, remembering the tough and chewy bits of brown duck meat that I‚Äôve had to endure in the past. But just looking at the mahogany glaze on the skin of the duck, I knew it was a winner. The duck was cooked to perfection ‚Äì so tender and succulent, it fell off the bone and melted in our mouths. Instead of a tough and crispy exterior due to overcooking, the VIP Duck was juicy – seemingly braised in a medley of aromatic juices and spices, leaving a slight bite of cinnamon and anise. That, combined with the flavorful duck meat, overshadowed the accompanying trio of scallions, cucumber, and flatbread; you could eat the duck by itself and be as happy as a clam.
Dessert was then bestowed upon us by our dear friend Joseph. An enormous slice of chocolate cake ‚Äì six layers to be exact ‚Äì swam in a pool of devil-red raspberry sauce, calling itself the Great Wall Of Chocolate. If that moist slice of heaven wasn‚Äôt enough to send me over the edge, I don‚Äôt know what was, is, or will ever be.
Bearing in mind that this business venture was a cross-cultural transition for Chiang, he clearly didn't have a problem pleasing the Kuwaiti palatte. I think he did an outstanding job in conforming to our needs and not losing his flavorful flair at the same time. The honorable Philip Chiang took a moment out of his busy night to sit with us as well, exuding friendliness, wisdom, and his million-dollar smile; the perfect ending to our incredible dinner.
Final verdict? P.F. Chang‚Äôs China Bistro will take your tastebuds down to Chinatown! For reservations, call 2258-1980.
– Farah Bishara. Images courtesy of P.F Chang's.