Dietary Diaries

The food inspired musings of a culinarily inclined nerd.

Location: Berkeley, California Bay Area, United States

Berkana signifies rebirth and new beginnings; I have found these in Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 09, 2004

P.F. Chang's China Bistro

You might remember how bummed I was when I found out that P.F. Chang's China Bistro wasn't founded by P.F. Chang ("P.F. Chang" doesn't exist! ) Well, today, Peter and I decided to overlook the fact that P.F. Chang's is a chain of restaurants with over a hundred locations founded by a white guy named Paul Fleming, and to give them a chance to prove their skills for lunch.

Honestly, I was quite pleased with the food. (And their waitresses were très cute. ) Their Oolong-marinaded sea bass was excellent , and so was their Cantonese style duck. We also got the seared tuna appetizer, and Shanghi style street dumplings. (Yeah, sounds kinda gross, but they mean "street-side vendor.") Everything was delish. The dessert item we got, which was a fried bannana dish, was also delish; instead of battering it and frying it, they wrapped it in a thin, fillo-dough-like sweatened egg-roll skin and fried it. And their restroom was impeccably clean, which is an absolute must. (I hate restaurant restrooms which are filthy.) The faucet outlets were beautiful angle-cut brass pipes that automatically let out a stream of perfectly warm water as you approach, sitting over an artistic trough made of polished orange glass aggregate. The interior decor of the restaurant was very impressive, though the mural they had curving over the wet bar was a badly drawn attempt to imitate old chinese watercolor paintings. The entire restroom was tiled in polished limestone, except the faucet wall, which had small dark red glass tiles.

Peter let our host know that he was a culinary student, and the floor manager, Francisco, gave him a tour of the kitchen facilities, which he told me were seriously nice, lamenting that Pyramid's kitchen equipment was starting to show the signs of age. And in our usual manner, we asked the servers where the tea came from, what kind of oil they fry in, and all sorts of culinary questions that only a chef would ask.

Now, the critique: all minor issues. The tea pots in which they served their tea were textured enameled cast iron tea pots, which are characteristic of Japan, not China. Chinese tea pots are clay based. On the menu, spicy items were denoted by a little Chinese character for "fire", which should rather have been the Chinese character for "spicy". (Yeah, I know. I'm a nit picker.) Also, of all the condiments they had at the table, they didn't have sesame seed oil, which is one of those characteristic condiments of Chinese cuisine. Lastly, the duck dish came to us overcooked; though the cut of meat we had off the duck was dark meat, it was a bit dry. Now, if you have dry dark meat on a duck, you know you've overcooked it. None the less, the duck was still delicious. We were going to order the "steamed fish of the day", but it turns out the fish they were steaming was salmon. Salmon's good, but not complementary to the kinds of flavors used in that recipe (ginger, soysauce, etc.); typically, a white fish such as cod, bass, or hallibut is used. I really wanted to see their take on steamed fish, but hearing that salmon was the fish of the day turned me off to that.

Over all, it was really nice. Definitely recommended.


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