Restaurant Review: P. F. Chang’s China Bistro (Victor, NY)

pf changs china bistro logo

I first visited P.F. Chang’s China Bistro several years ago when they opened a new location in Eastview Mall in Victor, NY.  Recently, I returned to this Asian food restaurant for lunch.  Although it is a chain restaurant with locations in 19 countries worldwide, it felt more like a small family owned eatery.

Surroundings

Located in a grouping of restaurants in a large, upscale shopping mall, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro stands out among the crowd.  The only Asian-themed establishment in the group, it offers something other than the standard Italian food or bar atmosphere. A large rotary-style entrance door seems an odd choice for a restaurant, yet there it was. Interestingly, valet parking is available – seemingly out-of-place at a shipping mall. The building is quite impressive, almost regal.

Atmosphere

Like many Asian restaurants, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro is decorated in a burgundy and black color palette. Both the lobby and the dining room feature panoramic murals of dessert-themed scenes (think camels). In addition, the far wall in the dining room displays an eclectic collection of Asian art, including, vases, pottery, and ceramics.  Flanking either side of the main dining area, you’ll find two almost life-size statues of Asian heroes.

One side of the dining room wall offered semi-circular, black leather booths, perched upon a platform. The balance of the seating included a central area of more elegant off-white booths, surrounded by tables and chairs on the outer areas of the dining room. The lobby area also featured a small seating area at the bar, where a few patrons enjoyed late afternoon drinks.

The music was audible but not memorable. I do remember, however, feeling a cold draft, most likely due to the odd choice of a front entry door. Finally, the dining room was overly dark, due to a dark color palette as well as dim lighting. At 3 pm in the afternoon, we don’t need mood lighting.

Menu

We arrived at 3 pm, with an hour remaining for the lunch service, so we ordered off the less extensive (and less expensive) lunch menu.  The 15 lunch menu options all included a lunch-portioned entrée, and steamed white or brown rice, along with a choice of a cup of soup or a mixed green salad (which the waiter described as mostly iceberg lettuce). The soup choices included either Egg Drop Soup or Hot and Sour Soup. Fried rice may be substituted for steamed rice on the lunch menu for a $1 additional charge.

The dinner menu at P.F. Chang’s China Bistro is quite extensive.  Sections include

  • Starters ($4.95-$9.95)
  • Soups ($2.95 per cup, $6.95-$7.95 per bowl)
  • Salads ($8.95-$12.95)
  • Sides ($2.95 small, $4.95 large)
  • Chang’s Specialties (Chicken from $13.95 – $14.95, Vegetarian from $8.95 – $10.95, Beef from $14.95 – $15.95, and Seafood from $15.95 – $24.95)
  • Wok Classics ($12.95 – $18.95)
  • Noodles and Rice ($7.95 – $15.95)
  • Desserts ($2.95 – $8.95)

The menu shows which items are House Specialties or Guest Favorites, to help you make an informed decision. Also, any of the wok-fried chicken or shrimp entrees may be ordered as steamed, for a lighter option. Certain items are gluten-free or can be made gluten-free and will be served on a logo-plate to denote the dietary restriction.

Food

I eagerly ordered Shrimp with Lobster Sauce ($11.95) with steamed brown rice and a coup of Hot and Sour Soup. The shrimp was tossed with Chinese black beans, peas, scallions, Asian mushrooms and egg.  I happily enjoyed this dish. The shrimp was cooked just right, so that it wasn’t tough and the lobster sauce was tangy and flavorful. The brown rice wasn’t too sticky and the black beans were a nice addition.

P.F. Chang's Shrimp with Lobster Sauce, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
P.F. Chang’s Shrimp with Lobster Sauce, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

My dining companion, Eileen, ordered Chang’s Kung Pao Shrimp (a House Specialty, $11.95), with steamed brown rice, and a cup of Hot and Sour Soup. The shrimp was bathed in a spicy Sichuan chili sauce with peanuts, celery, scallions and red chili peppers. She said that the amount of heat was just right and that she would definitely order it again.

P.F. Chang's Kung Pao Shrimp, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
P.F. Chang’s Kung Pao Shrimp, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
P.F. Chang's Hot and Sour Soup, Courtesy: pfchangs.com
P.F. Chang’s Hot and Sour Soup, Courtesy: pfchangs.com

 

We both chose the Hot and Sour Soup, which was a great start to the meal.  It was extra spicy and steaming hot. We drove about 30 minutes on a cold January day to get to P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, so a cup of hot soup was a treat to these travelers.

The photo of the Hot and Sour Soup shown here is from their website. Our’s was quite tasty, but wasn’t as elaborately plated.

 

P.F. Chang's Trio of Sauces, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
P.F. Chang’s Trio of Sauces, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

 

Don’t forget the Trio of Sauces which were delivered to the table by our server! These include Hot Mustard Sauce, Chili Sauce and Soy Sauce. The trick is to blend them together to make a customized sauce with just like right mix of heat, sweet and tang. I prefer a hotter sauce. You can keep the mustard sauce though. None of that for me; it’s far too tangy for my taste buds.

We both found the lunch portion to be enough for an early dinner, especially with the cup of soup which was included in the price. Neither of us had any leftovers though.

I have to admit though, that I missed the crunchy, deep-fried noodles that are usually served gratis, at the start of the meal at most Chinese restaurants. I like to nosh on those as I ponder the menu and chat with friends over hot tea. Also, the sweet dipping sauce which accompanies them is the best.

Service

The service was good and we didn’t encounter any issues with our server or any other employees. Granted, there were only a handful of other diners in the restaurant at this time before the dinner rush.

We were politely greeted by a hostess at the hostess stand just inside the entrance to P.F. Chang’s China Bistro. She asked how many people were in our party and then handed us off to another employee who seated us. Our waiter came over within just a minute or two and introduced himself. He was knowledgeable about the menu, and easily answered our questions about it.

After we placed our order, our soup was delivered quickly, Our food followed not too long after. Our waiter offered us the Trio of Sauces, and explained what each one was. Payment was a snap, as we left our payment on the table for our server. Upon leaving, the hostess kindly directed helped us find the mall entrance and then thanked us for our business and wished us a good afternoon.

Overall Impression

All in all, our late lunch visit to P.F. Chang’s China Bistro was a pleasant experience. I would definitely return and I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys fine Asian food. I like to think of it as “gourmet” Asian, although I am sure that the food purists would disagree with me.

However, it is decidedly more pricey that your typical Chinese restaurant. If that is a concern for you, then I suggest that you do what we did – go later in the afternoon to take advantage of the lunch menu prices (till 4 pm on weekdays), but still get the experience and decent portion size of an early dinner.

If you go:

PF Chang’s China Bistro
Eastview Mall
820 Eastview Mall
Victor, NY 14564
Phone: (585) 223-2410
Website: pfchangs.com
Email: info@nathanssoup.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pfchangs
Twitter: @PFChangs

Business Hours: Mon-Thurs and Sun: 11am – 10pm, Fri and Sat: 11am-11pm
Cuisine:                       Asian/Chinese
Meals Served:              Lunch, Dinner
Children’s Menu:          Yes – age 12 and under, served with a kid’s drink
Accepts Credit Cards:   Yes
Handicap Accessible:    Yes – separate entryway
Attire:                         Casual
Requires Reservations: No
Table Service:             Yes
Take Out:                   Yes and curbside pick-up
Outdoor Seating:         Yes, patio weather permitting
Parking:                      Free and plentiful in the mall lot
Valet Service:              Yes
Bar Seating:                Yes
Alcohol:                      Yes
Coat Check:                No
Date opened:             2007
Date visited:               Monday, January 12, 2015 for a late lunch

***

 

Advertisements

Restaurant Review: The King and I Cuisine of Thailand (Rochester, NY)

Restaurant: The King and I Cuisine of Thailand in Rochester, NY
Restaurant: The King and I Cuisine of Thailand in Rochester, NY

Surroundings
As a frequent visitor to The King and I Cuisine of Thailand, I usually don’t pay much attention to the surroundings. However, in preparing to write this review, I took a fresh look at the location. The King and I is located in a small, but busy strip plaza, just south of Monroe Community College in Brighton, NY. The neighboring area is a blend of industrial and retail establishments, giving it an eclectic vibe. Ample parking is available in the well-lit, private lot immediately in front of the restaurant, just steps from the front door. In fact, if you happen to sit at a table in the front of the restaurant, you can see your parked car through the large glass anterior window.

Atmosphere
The waiting area is shielded by a glass, double door entryway. It was a bit strange to see a pay phone just inside the first glass door, as they are so rare these days. The second glass door opens directly into the waiting area, furnished with comfortable upholstered bench seats, a small self-serve coat alcove, and a clear view of the parking lot – perfect for waiting for friends to arrive. The hostess stand is located to the left of the entrance, where incoming diners are greeted with a warm smile.

The layout of The King and I is open and roomy. The casual dining area is separated into thirds, each delineated by a half wall with arch cut-outs, but unified by multi-colored wall-to-wall carpeting. Upon entering the restaurant, one can see from one end to the other, making for a spacious feel. The front and back sections are set up with tables and chairs, while the main dining area in the middle has booths along the wall and tables and chairs in the center. White columns, a tray ceiling and chandeliers accent the main dining area. A narrow bar (no seating) is also set up along one wall in the main dining area. This open concept, although inviting and bright, can lead to a loud din which rises as the dining room fills up with patrons. The Asian-themed wall art, porcelain collectibles, and pottery all add to the authentic atmosphere.

On both visits (lunch and dinner), the restaurant appeared almost full. The King and I can accommodate private dining parties and banquets for up to 40 people.

Menu
The variety of menu fare is vast and varied. A single menu encapsulates both lunch and dinner options. I especially like that the inside front page of the menu includes descriptions of Thai dishes and seasonings and a guide to Hot and Spicy ratings (with a pepper graphic ranging from one pepper = Hot and Spicy to four peppers = Extra Hot and spicy). It is an excellent guide for the novice Thai diner. For example, “Phat Phet” is described as “green beans, bamboo and basil seasoned with a spicy chili sauce and a touch of coconut milk” and is shown with one pepper (Hot and Spicy).

Vegetarian options are available for lunch combination platters, dinner entrees, appetizers and soup. Non-vegetarian options are available for appetizers, soups, entrees, and Yum (salad). Sides include rice variations and sauce options. Both dine in and take out service is available. As is common in many restaurants with a take-out clientele, ordering can be done via a number assigned to each dish.

Beverages include Thai ice drinks, blender fruit drinks (non-alcohol, non-dairy), vegetable juices, a variety of teas, and soft drinks (soda, orange juice, milk). Alcohol service is limited to beer and wine only. A very limited dessert menu consists of only two homemade desserts. Each table is stocked with three self-serve glass jars of sauces, including an orange-colored chili sauce, a red spicy hot pepper sauce and a green more mild sauce. Soy sauce is also available upon request.

The lunch section of the menu features 32 popular combination platters, including 12 vegetarian options, ranging in price from $8.50 to $10.25. Dine in lunches include the soup of the day and steamed rice. A fried shrimp or vegetable spring roll can be added for $1 each for dine in customers. However, carry out luncheon platters include a fried spring roll and steamed rice, but not the soup.

I found it interesting that The King and I menu includes the following presumptuous note: “KINDLY ADD 15% OR MORE GRATUITY FOR YOUR SERVER, PLEASE. (15% gratuity will be added for parties of 5-14, 20% for 15 or more).”

Food
I visited The King and I twice in one week. The first visit was with two co-workers during a weekday lunch hour, and the second visit was during a more relaxed Saturday evening pre-movie meal with a friend. During both visits, we were treated to rather large portions and steaming hot food.

For our lunch, my co-workers and I all ordered the same popular dish – Phat Thai Chicken ($9.25), offered with a cup of the soup of the day, which was chicken soup on that particular day. I would have preferred that we each order a different menu item, but alas I cannot force my wishes upon my lunch companions! However, each of us doctored our rice differently, using the trio of sauces on the table. Served with fine rice noodles with nuts and bean sprouts, the Phat Thai Chicken was quite satisfying. The sliced chicken was tasty and plentiful and the sauce was perfectly seasoned, rendering a sweet and tangy taste. The vegetables were cooked al dente, just how I like them. We all agreed that the delicious chicken soup was chock full of chicken and vegetables, and warmed us up nicely on a cold winter day.

The only aspect of our luncheon outing which could have been improved was that the dish included white rice along with the noodles, resulting in a double carbohydrate serving. Brown rice is available as a substitution, but still delivers extra carbs. Perhaps a small Asian themed salad would have been a nice substitute for the rice.

During my dinner visit, I ordered the Spicy Shrimp ($15.95) and a pot of hot tea ($2.00 per pot, refillable). Upon arrival to the table, the dish looked colorful and vibrant, featuring pink shrimp and a multitude of bright vegetables. The shrimp was cooked just right, proving to be tender, moist and flavorful. However, I was a bit disappointed that the tails were left on the shrimp, requiring me to awkwardly remove each one and coyly collect them on the edge of my plate. Perhaps this is a custom or a sign of a sophisticated entrée, but I would prefer that the tails be removed. Also, although the menu showed the heat of this dish as only one pepper, I found it to be uncomfortably spicy. In fact, I usually add red pepper sauce to my rice because I like it with a bit of additional heat – but not that night! The tea, although hot in temperature and quite tasty, was delivered in a small, white ceramic tea pot with a chipped spout. Regardless, I finished the entire pot of tea myself, and even asked for a refill.

My dining companion ordered her favorite Thai dinner dish, Sesame Chicken ($12.50). She especially liked the preparation of this dish at The King and I because it is not breaded or fried, resulting in a lighter version of the dish. It arrived hot and was a feast for the eyes. She reported that both the chicken and the sauce were flavorful and enjoyable, but the vegetables were far too few for the size of the dish. Before she ordered it, she specifically asked if this entrée included vegetables and she was told that they were included, at the bottom of the dish. However, she was disappointed that there were only a handful of broccoli florets and a bit of cabbage. She even noted to me later that she added more broccoli to the leftovers the next day.

We both agreed that the white rice served with dinner was not up to par with the rest of the meal. It was quite sticky and a bit dry. However, upon request, my dinner companion was graciously given a fresh serving of white rice to include in her take home container.

Service
The wait staff at The King and I was, for the most part, friendly and welcoming. The host has a way of making you feel important, like a personal friend. My companions and I were greeted with a warm hello and quickly shown to our table on both visits. During the dinner service, our waitress appeared to be a bit curt at the beginning of our meal, but that may be attributed to a language and/or cultural barrier. By the end of the meal, she seemed much more amiable. The staff was very knowledgeable about the menu and happily answered our questions.

The food was served quickly and efficiently during both visits. So quickly in fact, that at lunch, our entrée had already arrived before we were done with our soup. Admittedly, this led to a feeling of being a bit rushed. During my lunch visit, I noticed that the staff was extremely attentive to refilling my water glass. However, during the dinner service, I did not experience that same quality service, as my water glass sat sadly empty for extended periods of time (a personal pet peeve of mine).

Upon leaving, we were afforded a friendly good-bye from the host, encouraging us to come back, and again making us feel like personal friends.

Awards
The King and I has recently been awarded the following local honors:
• 2013 Best Asian Restaurant in Rochester – City Newspaper
• 2013 Gold Winner Rochester Choice Awards – Rochester Democrat & Chronicle Newspaper

Overall Impression
I recommend this gem of a restaurant to all who are seeking a pleasant experience in Thai cuisine. While not overly pretentious, the wait staff is knowledgeable and efficient. Whether you have never experienced the joy of Thai food or if you are a confirmed Thai food aficionado, I suggest giving it a try!

If you go:
The King and I Cuisine of Thailand
1455 E. Henrietta Road
Rochester, NY 14623
Phone: 585-427-8090
Fax: 585-427-8288
Website: thekingandithaicuisine.com
Email: n/a
Facebook: n/a
Twitter: n/a

Details:
Business Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am –10pm, Fri 11am – 11pm,
Sat noon –11pm, Sun noon – 9:30pm
Cuisine:                      Thai, Asian, Vegetarian
Meals Served:             Lunch, Dinner
Children’s Menu:          No
Accepts Credit Cards:   Yes
Handicap Accessible:    Yes
Attire:                         Casual
Requires Reservations: Only for large parties
Table Service:              Yes
Take Out:                    Yes
Outdoor Seating:          No
Parking:                       free, in a shared lot directly in front of the restaurant
Valet Service:               No
Bar Seating:                 No
Alcohol:                       Beer and Wine only
Coat Check:                 No, but small self-serve coat room available
Date visited:                1-13-2014 lunch, 1-18-2014 dinner

***