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.
at Irvine Spectrum
61 Fortune Drive
Irvine, CA 92618