PF Chang’s abolishes a decade long bias

I can tell you the exact date I last went to PF Chang’s — June 19th, 2003. It was my first and last time. So last month, when I was invited to the media preview of the re-launch of PF Chang’s at Irvine Spectrum, I arrived with major skepticism, remembering the meal I experienced almost a decade ago.

We were introduced to new menu items which were surprisingly pleasing and changed my outlook at the whole PF Chang’s brand. Just to make sure that my post was justified, I returned again this week. I didn’t want the media preview to be a fluke. If I was to shower PF Chang’s with new-found praise, I wanted to make sure it was deservedly so.

I always suggest dining with friends — at least 3 of them — because meals are meant to be shared. Start with Kashmir Wok-Seared Lamb ($9.95) a mound of ground lamb, carrots, red onions and Baltic Masala Spice served with scallion pancakes and a Thai-basil cucumber raita dipping sauce.

Although the pancakes were a little on the thick side, the lamb was flavorful and not very spicy. Rice would’ve made a great accompaniment if the pancakes were not to your liking.

Wok-Charred Volcano Steak Pockets ($8.95) is offered on the lunch menu and served in a thin scallion pancake (which would’ve been great with the lamb by the way) wrapped with the steak on one side and a version of do chua (Vietnamese pickled daikon and carrots) stuffed on the other side along with lettuce and cilantro.

One of the items we were introduced to at the preview was Sizzling Black Iron Mussels ($10.95). I’m extremely fussy about mussels and this dish blew me away the first time and I wanted to try it again. Let me just say, the second time around was just as good.

The mussels arrive on a sizzling plate atop a concoction of sliced chilis, ginger and garlic and served with a black bean butter dipping sauce. The mussels are tender and the sauce has just a little tartness to enhance these delicious mollusks.

Honestly, this dish is a hard one to share because I want it all to myself, together with one of their signature cocktails……….

…….. namely the Carrot Canton ($9). This outstanding drink has the sweetness of fresh carrot juice and Domaine de Canton Liqueur. It tasted more like something you’d get at a health spa, but with a splash of alcohol.

I didn’t particularly care for Shrimp and Bacon Okonomiyaki ($6.45), but then again, I don’t like okonomiyaki to begin with so either way, it wouldn’t have won with me — sorry.

Thai Noodle Chicken Salad ($9.95) was also a new addition, which would’ve been really great if there was more acid. I added a splash of vinegar which did the trick, but some fresh lime wedges would be the key to give this dish what it desperately needed.

Our server suggested the Lemongrass Grilled Norwegian Salmon ($12.95) which he informs us was one of the popular items on the lunch menu. It was a very good lunch time choice if you are wanting a light lunch, served with asparagus and red peppers accompanying. I didn’t detect any lemongrass although ginger was clearly evident.

Singaporean Black Pepper Prawns ($21.95) is another dish I recommend. These sweet water prawns are plump and tossed in a heavier sauce than its Singaporean counterpart — when you eat it in Singapore. Unfortunately, it is only offered on the dinner menu, but is perfect with rice — brown or white are both available and is always complimentary!

I highly recommend ending your meal with Passion Fruit Tart ($6.45). You all know I’m not a fan of desserts, but the passion fruit presented a lovely tart finish and the graham cracker crust was texturally pleasing. Diced fresh mangoes added a refreshing component and the surprising use of togarashi  added a kick to the vanilla glaze.

Dining on the patio is just lovely even though the dining room is equally amazing. PF Chang’s has changed my viewpoint and won me over with its new menu. I am happy to return for cocktails and dine on some mussels and shrimp, knowing I will leave very satisfied with a smile on my face.

And those of you who are fans, or need to be won over, PF Chang’s has generously offered my readers two $25 giftcards. Please leave me a comment and tell me if you are a fan, or someone who still needs to be won over and most importantly, WHY? You have until Sunday, Jan 22nd to enter. Winners will be announced Monday Jan 23rd.

PF Chang’s
at Irvine Spectrum
61 Fortune Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
Tel: 949-453-1211

P.F. Chang's China Bistro (Irvine Spectrum) on Urbanspoon


  1. says

    I haven’t eaten there in probably about the same amount of time – I wasn’t impressed and always thought they were overpriced. I’d be down to give them another shot.

  2. Inge says

    I’ve never been to PF Chang because I’ve always thought of the restaurant as an overpriced Americanized Chinese restaurant. Now that I’ve seen your review, the new concept seems good and the food is interesting. I’d love to come and try the new dishes

  3. marcus rodriguez says

    Hi Anita,
    I am a huge fan of PF Changs and have had many lavish meals there starting off with lettuce wraps and a glass of vino or three. I am also a huge fan of there half marathons and love the tradition and “giving back” mentality that PF Changs stands for. The next time I go I am sure to enjoy the prawns and fruit tart with a bottle of wine.

    Be well. Marcus Rodriguez “freemen55”

  4. Jody W says

    I’m a fan already. The food is delicious and I love how they cater to people with food allergies or dietary restrictions. There’s plenty of vegan items on the menu for me and if my step sister joins us, they have gluten free items for her.

  5. Johnathan Grant says

    I’ve been a fan for years, consuming many a lettuce wrap. I enjoyed their Sichuan Chicken Flatbread and was sad to see it go, but the tart showcased above appears to be reason enough to plan another visit.

  6. Josh Huff says

    My roommate, and best friend, has a similar experience at PF Changs when he was younger and to this day REFUSES to eat there. I love the place and try to get him to go all the time; but to no avail, he won’t. I think if he was given the gift cards and was able to try their amazing new menu he could be “won-over” again.

  7. Sangeeta Jaggarnath says

    Have not eaten there, but been meaning to try them. I always thought they were pricey,but looking at the above price its not bad. Hopefully I get to try them soon!!

  8. Rachael says

    I am a fan but haven’t been to a PF Chang’s in probably 2 years… I was in a rut of ordering the same old thing (Lettuce Wraps and Spicy Chicken) but now that I’ve seen your blog post I think I need to visit again and branch out!!

  9. Bing says

    I definitely need to be won over. Their food was too “Americanized”, too oily and bland for me. The new concept has me curious though, especially now that I walk by it to go to the gym every Sunday. 😉

  10. Michelle Eichmann says

    LOVE LOVE LOVE PF Changs! Their food is fantastic… not at all like the Chinese or other Asian food from a strip mall restaurant. PF Chang’s food tastes like homemade goodness!

  11. says

    I’ve been to PF Changs a few times. I think I still need to be won over. I always felt that the food was overly salty. And sometimes it seemed like just a fancier version of take-out. A dressed up Pei Wei. But these pics you posted are really different. I feel like if I go again, I’ll be able to try something new, something I won’t find at every other chinese style chain restaurant. That lamb dish looked really good!

  12. Irma F says

    I only started becoming obsessed with PF Chang’s after writing them off for so long and this review makes me want their food even more (especially when you’re a poor college student who dreams of a nice meal).

  13. Queena Mewers says

    I have only been to PF Chang’s three times in my life, and each time, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, I also went in with very low expectations. These new menu items sound really exciting, and I’d really like to try them out! The Kashmir Wok-Seared Lamb sounds particularly interesting to me — I love lamb!

  14. PG says

    I took my parents to PF Chang’s when they first opened in MN (where I used to live) and if you asked my father about it, he can will tell you how horrible it was. That was about the same time you last went and also mine. All I could remember was how salty the food was and that I will never set foot in there again. After reading your review, I may want to step foot inside one again when I’m in the vicinity of one.

  15. says

    I’m someone that needs to be won over for PF Chang’s. Constantly I hear/see/read mix reviews about PF Chang’s, but personally that has stopped me from trying it. After reading your blog I want to actually give it a shot and hopefully the negative reviews that i heard/read were false and this place has become a place I will enjoy going into the future.

  16. Kevin E says

    We have a PF Changs in our local mall, but I haven’t tried it yet. I would definitely go try it out with the family if I win the $25 gift card. Thanks!

  17. says

    I went to PF Changs once several years ago. I appreciated the freshness of the food but the menu didn’t stand out. It wasn’t worth fighting the crowds to eat there. This menu seems interesting. I would fight crowds for those black iron mussels. For sure.

  18. Debbie Matlow says

    Went to PF Chang’s at the Spectrum about a little over a year ago for my cousin’s birthday and was SO disappointed. My lettuce wrap appetizer was just ok, but my Mom’s chicken and veggie stirfry was awful. Overdone chicken and limp veggies. I’m glad they’re re-vamping their menu. I would have reservations about going back.

  19. Gregory McCann says

    I’m a fan of PF Chang’s. However, I haven’t been there in many years due to economic hardships. I watched curiously as they boarded up the Spectrum location and wondered, how can this be? Then, I read about their plans to remodel, reconfigure and introduce a “new concept” approach. They now have a “unique” menu unlike any other of the PF Chang’s restaurants which makes me very enthusiastic about experiencing the new and fresh ideas. Plus, I like the fact they expanded the variety on the menu with the infusion of a wider range of Asian cuisine. Hey, I have no income, but a guy can wish can’t he?

  20. says

    I love the Irvine Spectrum location, what an amazing transformation it’s gone through. $25 would be a big help to easing my pursicule (yes, I just made up that word) stress to my next visit for cocktails & those beautiful mussels.

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